Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is a company that's dominant in its field, with a brand that's instantly recognizable and loved worldwide. It's run by a strong management team that, though not perfect, is generally able to respond fairly quickly to issues that arise. Apple is also, as far as I can tell, second to none in its ability to attract and retain high-quality talent to make things happen.
At less than ten times trailing twelve month earnings (though it's trading at a little over 10 times estimates for the current fiscal year), the stock just looks plain cheap. And, I must admit, that I am very tempted to buy in at current prices.
However, despite this strong temptation, I'm not buying in. Here's why.
Apple's core businesses probably won't grow this year
Apple's business units consist of the following:
- Other Products
- Software and services
iPhone is by far the company's largest and most important business, and yet even in a smartphone market that's expected to grow modestly this year, its shipments are expected to suffer a year-over-year decline in fiscal year 2016.
The iPad, once viewed as the company's "next big growth driver" has also been in decline for some time and it's hard to be optimistic that we'll see full-year growth in this product category either.
The PC market has been in decline for quite some time, with Apple managing to buck the trend and actually grow in the last fiscal year. However, the Mac is off to a less-than-stellar start, with units and revenue down 4% and 3% year-over-year, respectively (to Apple's credit, it's still outperforming the broader PC market).
"Other products" looks set to grow by virtue of the ramp of Apple Watch, and Software and Services also looks set to grow, though these two categories are relatively small in terms of revenue and profit contribution for the company.
All told, the analyst community expects Apple to see total revenue drop 2.7% year-over-year. Hardly a harbinger of doom for the company, but certainly a reason to be uneasy.
Buying now is a bet on iPhone growth next year (and beyond)
I continue to believe that anybody buying Apple stock now is likely doing so with the expectation that the company's sales and profit will return to growth next year -- and beyond. The only realistic way for this to happen is for iPhone to return to growth.
Although there are certainly reasons to be optimistic about the iPhone 7/7 Plus cycle, a return to growth in iPhone is by no means assured. The company will need to bring out "all the stops" with this next generation phone. It not only needs to make a device compelling enough that it will rip away even more share from the high-end of the Android market, but it needs to compel the roughly 60% of the pre-iPhone 6/6 Plus installed base that has yet to upgrade to the iPhone 6/6 Plus or later to get on board as well.
I can certainly see many avenues of improvement for these next generation phones that I would personally find compelling, but I'm a fairly easy target as I love new technology. The key will be to bring enough features that are immediately obvious and valuable to the average consumer to catalyze a major upgrade cycle.
Apple will surely be on extra "leak control" as it doesn't want to compound the problems that the iPhone 6s/6s Plus are having in the marketplace with the Osborne Effect. However, I will be keeping a close eye for any and all such leaks in order to try to determine whether the features that Apple will be bringing later this year will truly be "game changers" or not.
But, for now, I have no plans to purchase Apple stock; I simply need more information before I'm willing to commit to putting a meaningful portion of my portfolio into this stock.