Activist investor Carl Icahn has released the ‘Apple Letter’ Thursday morning. Icahn asks Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) to make a tender offer for shares.
Full Apple Letter Below
As a large Apple shareholder with approximately 53 million shares, we applaud you and the rest of management, especially in light of recent launches and announcements which further validate our view that you are the ideal CEO for Apple. It is truly a watershed moment, with Apple poised to take market share from Google (Android) in the premium device market as iPhone 6 becomes Apple’s flagship device among a growing collection of products and services that work together to form an increasingly dominant mobile ecosystem. We believe this advantaged position over Google, the company’s only real competitor, justifies our forecasts for revenue and EPS (earnings per share) growth of 25% and 44% respectively for FY (fiscal year) 2015. This strong competitive position and earnings growth compels us to remind you that Apple, adjusting for net cash, currently sells at a P/E (price to earnings per share ratio) of only 8x our FY 2015 forecast, a significantly lower P/E than a broad market index, the S&P 500, which trades today at a P/E of 15x FY 2015 consensus. In contrast to the S&P 500’s slower growth, we expect Apple to grow its EPS by 30% in each of FY 2016 and FY 2017.
Assuming these growth characteristics for FY 2016 and FY 2017, we see Apple’s P/E of just 8x our FY 2015 forecast as both irrational and transient in nature, especially since many actively managed mutual funds remain underweight Apple in their portfolios. Our forecasted growth for FY 2016 and FY 2017 more than adequately justifies using a P/E multiple of 19x our FY 2015 forecast, which along with net cash values Apple at $203 per share today. Described in more detail below, these factors combine to reflect a massive undervaluation of Apple in today’s market, which we believe will not last for long. Therefore, given the persistently excessive liquidity of $133 billion net cash on Apple’s balance sheet, we ask you to present to the rest of the Board our request for the company to make a tender offer, which would meaningfully accelerate and increase the magnitude of share repurchases. We thank you for being receptive to us the last time we requested an increase in share repurchases, and we thank you in advance now for any influence you may choose to have communicating to the rest of the Board the degree to which a tender offer would have a positive impact on an EPS basis for all shareholders. To preemptively diffuse any cynical criticism that you may encounter with respect to our request, which might claim that we are requesting a tender offer with the intention of tendering our own shares, we hereby commit not to tender any of our shares if the company consummates any form of a tender offer at any price. We commit to this because we believe Apple remains dramatically undervalued. And we think you and the Board agree. If you did not, you would not continue to repurchase shares under the existing authorization. You have said before that the company likes to be “opportunistic” when repurchasing shares and we appreciate that.
With this letter we simply hope to express to you that now is a very opportunistic time to do so. We think a tender offer is simply a good method of conducting a large repurchase in an expedited timeframe, but the exact method and the exact size is not the key issue for us. We are simply asking you to help us convince the board to repurchase a lot more, and sooner. We feel compelled to do so because we forecast such impressive earnings growth over the next few years, and therefore we believe Apple is dramatically undervalued in today’s market, and the more shares repurchased now, the more each remaining shareholder will benefit from that earnings growth.
Critical to our forecast for strong earnings growth is the belief that the iPhone will take significant premium market share. Given historically high retention rates, we assume existing iPhone users will continue to act like an annuity, choosing to stay with the iPhone each time they upgrade. But now, since the iPhone 6 is the most significant improvement to the iPhone since its introduction, we expect users of competitive products to see the iPhone 6/6+ as an exciting opportunity to choose a superior product. Now that iPhone offers a larger screen size, its price competitiveness in the premium phone market is clear, as a premium Android phone such as the Galaxy S5 and Note 4 sells at a similar price point to the iPhone 6 and 6+ respectively. The choice between them is analogous to the choice between a Volkswagen over a Mercedes at the same price, and unlike a Mercedes, the $649 cost of an iPhone 6 is affordable for the mass market, equating to just $20 per month over a two year period (including a $170 estimated resale value of the phone at the end of two years, excluding financing and taxes). We see the iPhone remaining unaffected by the “junk”, as you called it, sold at lower price points, but we also see it dominating the entire class of premium Android smartphones, such as Samsung’s Galaxy phones. Because of this, we expect Apple will take premium market share, while at the same time maintaining its prices and gross margins, proving the concept of commoditization is nothing more than a myth with regards to Apple. Beyond simple price comparison, we see the iPhone as best in class, supported by expert reviews and by the lines of people all over the world waiting to buy it. Perhaps most importantly, we believe the iPhone will take market share because its merits are no