A year ago, two of our finest Fools traded their jingly caps for stylish toothguards, then traded jabs over Apple
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Alyce Lomax admitted up front to a lifelong Apple addiction, though she could never convince herself to buy its pricey stock. But as with any growth-oriented innovator, she said that "what looks pricey today may look downright cheap in a couple years, as the company exceeds expected growth." In the five years before her bout, the shares had appreciated by more than 700%, while rivals like Microsoft
With Apple re-energized by iPods and Macs built around Intel
In short, she thought that this high-flying stock still could soar higher.
No way, Jose!
To no one's surprise, Rich Smith disagreed. "Ask any value investor whether a hypothetical stock trading at 39 times earnings," he said, "with long-term growth projected at 20%, is a bargain, and you'll get laughed out of the room." Only Apple could pull off a PEG ratio that lofty. Three years of 20% growth leading up to the duel didn't prove anything -- those were the early years of iPod-palooza, a feat no company could honestly expect to repeat.
As for the Intel-based Macs, Rich said that "putting Windows software on a Mac doesn't solve Apple's market-share problem. All it does is turn a Mac into an overpriced PC. Poetic, since Apple is an overpriced stock."
The results are in ...
This one wasn't even close. 77% of 300 voters sided with Alyce and her bull case, versus 16% for Rich and 7% undecided.
Over the next two days, an even 100 users weighed in on Apple in CAPS, with only six bears among them. None of the bears explained their ratings, while several of the bulls came up with price targets in the $105-$110 per share range over the next year. One share cost $89 that day.
Today, not much has changed in CAPS. Apple is a four-star stock with a 90% outperform rating, and the bulls are far more vocal than their pessimistic counterparts. If all that couldn't convince you that Apple really won that duel, consider the way this stock has set Wall Street on fire, giving shareholders more than a 100% return in just 12 months.
In other words, one year of hindsight says that Alyce got it exactly right: Apple was a winner.
An Apple today keeps the profits away
With the underwhelming Apple TV and a far more spectacular iPhone launch under its belt, Apple continues to look strong today. There's just no stopping this consumer-friendly gadget guru in the retail market -- or the stock market.
Of course, the stock remains as expensive as ever. P/E ratios and the like have only risen, and that standard metric now stands at a nosebleed-inducing 49.1 times trailing earnings. I'm not saying that Apple is about to jump off the Eiffel Tower or anything, but you really have to work hard to earn that sort of valuation.
Among other large companies with similar valuation concerns, I'd say that Google
Enjoy the ride while it lasts. Despite the current winning streak, I'm staying away until the valuation becomes sane -- which may be never. And I'd like to note that Alyce never bought in, either.
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Google shareholder, but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. He has never owned a single gadget with a multicolored Apple logo. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure is ready to fight your battles.