On a day some are calling “Black Monday” in China, bears have been mauling shares of Apple and other China-exposed U.S. companies since the markets opened. Analysts from at least two firms lambasted Apple’s valuation today, saying that investors are overreacting to the problems in China.
Also CEO Tim Cook chimed in, saying in an email to CNBC’s Jim Cramer that Apple is seeing “strong growth” there. But while both sets of comments boosted Apple shares briefly, they weren’t enough to hold the stock up for the rest of the day.
About 30 minutes before market close, Apple shares were down 3.28% at $102.99 per share after being up 2% at $107.81 per share immediately following the positive commentary. Apple stock has been highly volatile all day, falling as low as $92 per share to a new 52-week low in premarket trading this morning and opening the trading day at $94.87 per share.
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With all the volatility in Apple shares, the company’s market capitalization was down by $75 billion at one point. As of this writing, Apple’s market cap was at $584.1 billion—and this from a company that became the first stock to trade with a market cap higher than $700 billion earlier this year, even closing in on $775 billion. You read those numbers right. It means that the June quarter disappointment and China worries have shaved nearly $200 billion off Apple’s market cap since its peak just months ago.
Cantor Fitzgerald calls Apple’s valuation “irrational”
In a report today, Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White said investors were being irrational in valuing Apple. He said worries about China were overblown and pointed out that the market in general was sluggish, further weighing on the company’s stock price.
White said Apple’s valuation was “severely depressed” at a little over seven times his 2016 earnings per share estimate. Further, he said even if estimates for next year’s earnings are just at half of his current estimates, then Apple shares are trading at around 14.5 times his projection and close to the S&P 500 Index. However, he doesn’t think anything will derail Apple’s sales.
“Given our view on the longevity of this larger iPhone cycle, the ramp of Apple Watch, new expansion opportunities across China, emerging opportunities in India, increasingly challenged competitors, relatively modest market share and an ever strengthening global brand, we highly doubt even a global recession would drive our CY:16 EPS projections to come in 50% below our projections,” White wrote.
He has a Buy rating and $195 per share price target on Apple.
FBR likes China too
FBR & Co. analyst Daniel Ives called the last month “a miserable, dark period for Apple investors” following the June quarter earnings report. He noted that the stock has plunged 25% since then thanks to worries about China, market fears, and concerns about slowing growth of the iPhone 6. He added that Wall Street seems to think Apple has no more growth in its future and that even darker days may be ahead. Ives also called this a “white knuckle” period for the company and its investors, but he agrees with White in that more growth must be ahead.
The FBR analyst pointed out that less than 30% of Apple customers have upgraded to one of the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus models so far, leaving plenty of room for further growth there. Also the company is expected to reveal the iPhone 6S in September, and he sees a $100 billion opportunity in China over the next three years, even with “a 30% haircut” to his estimates.
He sees Apple as “a uniquely compelling name to buy in this hurricane-like market downdraft,” adding that he thinks Apple is “about to embark on their next phase of strong growth on an iPhone 6/6S product super cycle and a host of new product categories paving the way for this next chapter of growth” over the next couple of fiscal years.
Tim Cook reassures investors on China
Adding to all the positive commentary on Apple today was CEO Tim Cook, who emailed CNBC‘s Jim Cramer to say the company was doing well in China despite the country’s economic problems. Cook said they saw a reacceleration in iPhone activations in China over the last few weeks and had the China App Store’s best performance of this year over the last couple of weeks. Like Apple bulls, Cook sees plenty of opportunity for growth in China, particularly as LTE penetration remains low there.
Tyler Durden of Zero Hedge questions whether Cook violated the “Fair Disclosure” reporting requirements by emailing his comments to Cramer. Indeed, it’s an important consideration, as there was no official filing to go along with that disclosure.