Whenever there's an Apple
There are two factors to consider while looking at an Apple supplier: (1) What if Apple bungles a launch and a product takes a hit, and (2) what if the vendor loses its Apple contract.
So first, let's now see how Apple as a company has done in the past few years and how it may perform going forward.
Is Apple faltering? I don't see it.
To begin with, I need not say much about Apple. It is the one of the world's largest companies by market capitalization and manufacturer of the famed MacBook, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. The company's annual revenue growth graph over the past five years looks something like this:
Source: S&P Capital IQ.
Now, one may say that past performances are not reliable indicators of the future. In that case, let analysts' estimates do the talking. Analysts predict that earnings at Apple will grow at an average rate of 20% annually over the next five years. So there's no red flag so far.
As far as sales of Apple's products are concerned, its latest iPhone 4S has been flying off the shelf at supersonic speed and is on its way to break the record for the quickest-selling gadget in the world-- a record currently held by the iPad 2.
Weak economic conditions may be a point of concern, but if you look at that chart, you'll see that the company's sales rose in 2008, when the economy was tanking. I expect Apple to once again breach its current top line next year, and what adds to this expectation is the eagerly anticipated arrival of the iPhone 5 next year. There just aren't major signs that Apple is seriously faltering.
The coattail riders
Now, let's move on to those that thrive on Apple's thriving business.
Considering the magnitude of sales Apple's products garner, component suppliers have much to gain. Let's look at a few component suppliers that trade on U.S. exchanges and see how they may fare going forward -- and, more importantly, whether they run the risk of losing their lucrative Apple contract.
: The company supplies flash memory to Apple and received a major boost last year when its competitor Toshiba faltered in production. Since Apple looks for the highest standards in components, it seems to have made the right choice by opting for Micron, as the company is one of the best in the industry and its partnership with Intel brings finesse and innovation to the table. There seems to be no reason at the moment for Apple to offload Micron from its list of suppliers, and this association may go on in the future. (Nasdaq: MU)
: OmniVision supplies image sensors but has lost its monopoly after Sony's sensors found a place in the latest iPhone. OmniVision issued depressing guidance for the ongoing quarter, and its fate as a supplier to Apple hangs in the balance. So this is one supplier that's losing its clout in Cupertino. (Nasdaq: OVTI)
: Cirrus supplies audio chips to Apple. The company's relationship with Apple is quite strong, and its audio codecs are found across all Apple devices. Apple hasn't felt the need to change the supplier in this category. The fact that Cirrus' chips will be used in iPhone 5 further strengthens Cirrus' case. For these reasons, Cirrus finds a place in the list of The Top 25 Tech Stocks by fellow Fool Eric Bleeker. (Nasdaq: CRUS)
: Samsung, Apple's arch-nemesis, supplies processors for its products. However, their rivalry reached such levels that Apple decided to look for a new supplier in this category, and in came Taiwan Semiconductor. The company has now broken Samsung's monopoly and will probably phase out Samsung from the i-realm. So Taiwan Semiconductor seems to be the next coattail rider to watch out for. (NYSE: TSM)
The Foolish takeaway
This piece, in short, is your two-step check to gain from the booming Apple business. The second point of concern -- the chance that Apple's business will take a hit -- looks like a low probability event. As far as the relationship of the supplier with Apple is concerned, I have tried to bring out those that stand to gain and a few that are on the brink of losing their lucrative contracts with Cupertino. So before you jump onto a coattail rider, make sure it is in the good books of the i-realm.
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