Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will be launching its new Apple Watch in 2015, and a recent survey from financial services firm Credit Suisse is forecasting avid demand for the product among Apple customers. If that is in fact the case, 2015 could be a great year for investors in Apple stock.
Apple Watch: the clock is ticking
There is no official launch date for the Apple Watch yet, but rumor has it that it could reach the markets as soon as March. Apple CEO Tim Cook sounds particularly excited about the Apple Watch's potential, calling the product: "Our most personal device ever, and one that has already captured the world's imagination."
Credit Suisse asked iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners about their intentions regarding the Apple Watch, and demand looks remarkably strong. As reported by Business Insider, 18% of respondents say they will "definitely" purchase an Apple Watch, and an additional 11% say they will "probably" buy it.
Credit Suisse calculates this would mean demand for nearly 35 million units, but the company also believes that Apple will produce only 20 million Apple Watches in 2015. These kinds of forecasts are always subject to errors and revisions, so investors need to take the numbers with a grain of salt. However, healthy demand for Apple Watch bodes remarkably well for investors in Apple stock during 2015.
Apple stock looks undervalued
Apple is firing on all cylinders lately, both sales and earnings during the quarter ended in September were considerably better than expected on the back of a big increase of 21% in iPhone revenues during the period. Forward guidance was also better than analysts forecasted, which is particularly positive since the coming earnings release includes the seasonally crucial holiday period.
The company has a pristine balance sheet with more than $155 billion in cash and liquid investments, and it allocated a massive $45 billion to share buybacks during the last year. Earnings per share jumped 20% year over year during the last quarter, quite an extraordinary performance for a company of Apple´s size.
In spite of this, Apple stock looks notoriously cheap in comparison to the rest of the market. According to analysts estimates on S&P Capital IQ, Apple trades at a forward P/E ratio of 13.8, a material discount versus a forward P/E ratio of 17.2 for companies in the S&P 500 Index.
This valuation does not make much sense given the company´s financial performance. However, investing is all about the future, and investors seem to be concerned with the company's dependence on the iPhone, which generates approximately 53% of total revenues.
The iPhone is selling like hotcakes, but having more than half of sales coming from a single product is always a considerable risk to any company. Especially when operating in the always changing and dynamic electronics industry. If Apple loses its edge over the competition, or if the industry as a whole starts declining, investors in Apple stock could suffer a huge blow.
A strong Apple Watch could mean booming year for Apple in 2015
Being a completely new product, estimating sales figures for the Apple Watch is a notoriously difficult and uncertain task. Besides, since Apple is a global juggernaut making more than $212 billion in annual sales, the Apple Watch will hardly move the needle buy much from a financial point of view during 2015.
However, Apple Watch marks Apple's first entry into a new product category since the iPad in 2010. Importantly, it will be the first time Apple takes such an important step after the death of Steve Jobs. If the product is successful, this would be a major win for Apple, as it would prove to investors and analysts that the company can still disrupt different industries via product innovation.
Apple Watch will probably provide a modest contribution to the overall sales mix in 2015, but it could drive the stock's valuation substantially higher if demand turns out to be as strong as the recent survey from Credit Suisse suggests.
Andrés Cardenal owns shares of Apple. He also owns a Mac, and iPad and an iPhone. Andrés is planning to buy an Apple Watch as soon as available, but he still needs to negotiate that with his wife.
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