In this pricey market, it's getting increasingly difficult to find good deals. Contrary to the robust optimism priced into the market at large, one the world's most well-known tech brands -- Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) -- is still trading at a very conservative valuation, giving investors an excellent point of entry. In fact, Apple shares may offer investors a better risk profile today than ever before.
A crystal ball?
Will investors who buy Apple shares be rewarded later this year? I have no idea. Two years out, maybe? No clue. Attempting to speculate price swings is a fool's errand, one that real Fools are happy to avoid.
But one thing investors can see in Apple today is that the company is still performing exceptionally well, even though its shares are trading at a valuation that assumes very little growth, if any, going forward.
To highlight just how conservative the valuation is for Apple shares, consider that it currently trades with a price-to-earnings, or P/E, ratio of 15, compared to the S&P 500's overall P/E of 18. Is the comparative conservative outlook for Apple's business merited? Probably not.
Apple's risk profile
Risk, in finance, is ultimately a measure of the chance that an investment position will lose value. Given that Apple is priced for nothing more than EPS growth in line with inflation, Apple only needs to grow its bottom line, over the long haul, at a rate that will meet or exceed this expectation in order for investors to earn meaningful returns.
Can Apple achieve such growth? Two key parties seem to think so.
Analysts expect Apple, with the help of its massive share repurchase program (backed by unprecedented cash flow), to grow EPS by 15% per annum during the next five years -- a rate that puts the historical rate of inflation to shame.
Perhaps more importantly, Apple management seems more confident than ever in its product pipeline. Not only are investors in the fortunate position (thanks to comments from Apple CEO Tim Cook) of knowing Apple is going to introduce products in entirely new categories this year, but Apple's Internet Software and Services chief Eddy Cue said at this week's Code Conference that Apple has "the best product pipeline I've seen in my 25 years at Apple." Those 25 years include launches of the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, products that revolutionized the way we interact with technology.
Then there's the company's robust and unparalleled ecosystem of integrated software, services, and hardware that keeps customers coming back for more. This ecosystem limits the risk of worst-case scenarios, e.g. if Apple's upcoming iPhone 6 is a flop.
Is it reasonable to expect Apple can grow EPS at a rate that exceeds inflation during the next five to 10 years? Definitely. A conservative valuation combined with opportunity for meaningful EPS growth make Apple stock a steal, even after its recent run-up.