As a growth investor, I like to see a clear and defined path toward growth, as it mitigates my overall risk and allows me to sleep soundly at night. For this reason, I have not considered buying shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) for a long time as I believed there were far better growth opportunities in the market and even in the technology space, most notably Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG).
However, after reading through Apple's latest earnings results and conference call transcript, I have to admit that I came away impressed for a number of reasons. While the growth is still not where it needs to be for the company to enter my main growth-oriented portfolio, management is now creating enough value for shareholders for the stock to enter my dividend-oriented Roth IRA portfolio.
Earnings beat and growth
Just because Apple is not growing at high levels like my other high-growth investments, this does not mean the company is not growing at all. In fact, lately Apple is growing quite well considering its massive market capitalization of $484 billion.
In its most recently reported quarter, Apple grew revenue 4.7% on a year-over-year basis to $45.65 billion, which bested the average analyst estimate of $43.6 billion. The company also grew diluted earnings per share 15% to $11.62, which easily beat the average analyst estimate of $10.15.
According to Yahoo! Finance, the average analyst estimate now calls for Apple to grow revenue 5.2% and earnings per share 7.1% overall in the fiscal year ending September 2014.
Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook explained:
We're very proud of our quarterly results, especially our strong iPhone sales and record revenue from services. We're eagerly looking forward to introducing more new products and services that only Apple could bring to market.
Despite a solid performance in the quarter, Apple's growth is no longer industry-leading. When compared to diverse technology giant Google, whose market capitalization stands at approximately $355 billion, the company's growth leaves a lot to be desired. According to Yahoo! Finance, Google is expected to grow revenue 10.6% and earnings per share 21.9% in fiscal 2014. In 2015, Google's revenue growth is expected to accelerate to 17.7% while its EPS growth is expected to slow a bit to 18.3%.
However, Apple is still significantly cheaper than Google, even after the company's post-earnings surge in share price. Apple's forward P/E of 12 is much lower than Google's forward P/E of 16.9.
However, my focus with Apple at current levels is on the value that is being created by management in other areas. Several announcements from the most recent earnings release have me excited to buy shares of the technology company once again.
First, the company is displaying an increasing commitment to share buybacks. Apple announced that it would add an additional $30 billion to its already massive share repurchase program of $60 billion. According to CEO Tim Cook, the plan was expanded since the company believes its shares are undervalued. This means that Apple will return over $130 billion to shareholders by the end of 2015 in both dividends and share repurchases.
Second, and speaking of dividends, management at Apple increased the company's dividend by 8%, which makes the company's yield roughly 2.3%. Thirdly, Apple will soon perform a 7-for-1 stock split, which will make the stock more accessible to everyday investors.
Tim Cook explained:
Apple has created tremendous value for shareholders by developing great products that enrich people's lives and that will always be our top priority and driving force. The size of the share buyback increase is a signal of the board and the management team's strong confidence in the future of Apple.
Apple is still growing at solid rates and the company appears to only be improving in this regard as it gets set to introduce new products -- like the eagerly anticipated iPhone 6 later this year.
However, I like to think of the company as more a great value play at the moment. Management is doing a fine job at creating value for shareholders and all indicators point to continued success in this regard. For this reason, investors should consider taking a bite of Apple on the heels of a solid earnings report.