The fat milestones are flying these days. Apple
Which one is the better deal? Is one -- or both -- of these stocks headed for a fall?
If you've been scratching your head, wondering if the S.S. Google and the Good Ship Cupertino have sailed on without you, you've clicked on the right article. If my aim is true, I'll show you that both stocks remain juicy bargains despite the heady runs.
The ships are pretty crowded these days, but there's still time to hop on before the next chunky milestones come around.
Follow the earnings
Despite the gains and hype, Apple and Google actually command forward earnings multiples in the teens. Sure, we're talking about the high teens, but these aren't the kind of markups that even ardent bears would deem unreasonable given growth rates and pedigree papers.
Let's lay it out. Google is expected to earn $27.33 this year and $31.45 next year. With shares at $600, that amounts to a multiple of 22 for 2010 and a forward multiple of 19. Conversely, with Apple at $300, 2010 estimates of $14.56 equate to a multiple of 21, while next year's $18.03 target represents a 17 forward P/E.
It should also be pointed out that these targets are likely underestimating reality. Apple has consistently landed ahead of analyst expectations for years. Google rarely misses. They are both attractive, but which one is better?
Let's check out the bullish arguments for each camp.
Apple isn't just the cheaper of the two, on an earnings basis. It's also growing considerably faster. Apple's 2010 EPS growth is expected to come in at 60%, compared to just 18% for Google. Next year, Apple is seen slowing to 24% EPS growth, but that's still well above Google's 15% pace.
It's no surprise to see Google's growth decelerating. Big G is already the global leader, so it's not as if there are gobs of market left to snap up. The global opportunities are out there, but Google's already a major force in most countries.
Apple, on the other hand, may not even be close to its ceiling. International sales accounted for just 52% of its revenue during its fiscal third quarter.
The iPhone wasn't even legally introduced into the world's most populous market until China Unicom
Is there a more marketable brand than Apple? Critics were scoffing at the potential of tablets and the ill-advised iPad name, but Apple's still selling more than a million of those supersized iPod touch gadgets monthly.
Even closer to home, if you think the iPhone 4 is selling briskly now, just imagine how well the industry-defining smartphone will sell once its exclusivity deal with AT&T
Apple packs the octane and upside, but Google's calling card is its consistency. It grew during the recession -- a period in which its distant search rivals stalled.
In most markets, Google is the uncontested champ. Yes, it has all but yielded China to Baidu
Apple, on the other hand, isn't the largest player in computers, laptops, or smartphones. It's the leader in portable media players, but iPod sales have been declining in recent quarters. Its pole position in tablets is still a nascent market. As cool as Apple is -- and, yes, it is cool -- it may be the affinity brand in many of its specialties, but Google totally owns search.
As advertisers continue to realize the advantages of targeted ad campaigns that they will never accomplish through old school media, great chunks of marketing budgets will be earmarked for Google.
Yes, Apple will be the faster grower over the next few years, but its performance will be more volatile. Google, on the other hand, is the one with a clearer path to steady double-digit percentage earnings growth for years to come.
Sadly, I don't own shares in either company. Our in-house trading restrictions make it challenging to buy or sell companies that we cover, and I find myself discussing Google and Apple way too often.
However, if I did have that window available, I know what I would do.
Sorry, Google. I would be a buyer of Apple. The growth gap is too wide to ignore, despite the faddish nature of consumer electronics.
Google is the more conservative choice, but it's not without its risks. What if Facebook continues to grow and folks begin originating their searches through the social-networking site? What if click fraud concerns escalate or smarter advertisers begin to pay less for generated leads? None of this has happened. I have no problem recommending the purchase of Google. However, Apple is the one to still own.
It's not a matter of if -- bur rather when -- it will top ExxonMobil to become the country's most valuable company. It's not a matter of if -- but rather when -- it will overtake Research In Motion
Is Apple too expensive today? Sleep on that answer at your own risk. Apple is likely to report yet another blowout quarter tonight. The stock may not shoot up right away. These analyst beat downs are often baked into Apple's gains. However, in a year or so, when financial media pundits are wondering if Apple is expensive at $400, you'll know that you had the answer at $300.
Buy Apple. If there's money left over, buy some Google, too.
Which stock do you think is the better buy? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.
Google is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Baidu and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers choices. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Apple, ExxonMobil, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz still uses Google a lot in his daily life and is overrun with Apple gadgetry. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.