Originally Posted by Constable Odo
I'd like to know what is the exact reason why Apple's valuation is as low as it is. I'm guessing there's no formula to figure that out but does it have something to do with the business they're in, the fact that only the iPhone is making so much money for them or is it something like investors simply don't trust Tim Cook's judgment of running the company properly? I'd find it very hard to believe investors look at Apple products and say they're not good enough for consumers to buy. Why is even Microsoft receiving a higher P/E than Apple when this is supposed to be the post-PC era. Forget Google, that company's P/E is off the charts when compared to Apple. I'm wondering if Apple will never find a way to fix the compressing P/E problem. It seems like Apple has done everything possible to expand the P/E but it's possible that it's just growing slowly. There are of course analysts who still give rather low ratings to the stock, so they must see some sort of problem.
I'm always hoping that if Apple gets into some potentially huge business such as mobile payments, Wall Street might decide to give Apple some decent valuation. Maybe Apple has attracted the wrong type of investors over the years who don't necessarily like the company and only put in money when things are going good for Apple but flee at the slightest scare. They're definitely not the Google-type investors who continue to pour money into the company no matter what.
Apple's low valuation relative to Google, Amazon and others has much to do with the following four factors:
Market cap. There seems to be a special place reserved in hell for the company that claims the world's largest market cap, even if it well deserves to hold that title. The skepticism applied to companies as they near the top of the market cap spectrum suggests a nonlinear scale with the skepticism value skyrocketing for the one company at the top.
Misconception about Apple's business. When Exxon/Mobile was at the top of the market cap heap, analysts could readily understand its business in terms of the total world market for oil, with only a few subtleties. But Apple they seem to be confused by. They're seduced by the myth of market share in the phone and tablet markets, assuming that Apple's relatively low share in those markets is more key than its profits. Meanwhile, they miss the lesson right before their eyes in the PC market. Apple has, for a long time, done quite well with only a small share, and now that the world has flirted with the post-PC era for a few years, things are balancing out. And that means that the world has come to realize that tablets and PCs, while overlapping in some use cases, will always have their own strengths relative to one another. And so the PC universe will shrink only so much based upon the rise of tablets. Meanwhile, the world has had a taste, through iPhones and iPads, of technology that is more consumer friendly and 'just works.' This is bringing more and more each month/year into the Apple universe and those individuals, when it comes time to replace their aging Windows PCs, are for the first time considering a Mac. This illustrates that Apple can and will grow their share of the PC market now that the total number of PCs in use has basically plateaued. The same will occur in the tablet and smartphone markets once those markets stop growing, but analysts don't see this. They see only that smartphone and tablet adoption (growth of the entire smartphone and tablet markets) has been outpacing Apple's percentage unit growth and so Apple must be losing market share. What they fail to recognize is that market share during the build out phase is not the key measure of success for Apple, which plays only at the top of the market.
Bias shared by many tech analysts, who hail from tech industry backgrounds. Many of these folks continue to support the Tower of Babel approach to job security. Anything that is readily understandable and manageable by the masses degrades the power of knowledge held so jealously by the tech elite, the gurus of IT. Apple products, operating systems and ecosystem, to a far greater extent than any competitor's, reduces end user's dependence on the nerds that seek to maintain control over what they perceive as their domain of special knowledge, and therefore the source of their own value.
Apple's secrecy combined with analyst ego. An analyst, tech reporter or financial reporter is given little by the company to prognosticate and write about, and so they are left to imagine Apple's future, each on their own. Trouble is, they see this task as a challenge to outwit or outthink Tim Cook and most people, when left with such a challenge, will imagine themselves to have the power to do so, if not in all areas (none would deign to give Cook supply chain management advice) but in that one area where the analyst or reporter feels he has more expertise than Mr. Cook. Trouble is, these folks aren't up against only Mr. Cook, or only Mr. Cue or Mr. Ive. They're up against the aggregate intellect of the entirety of Apple's workforce. If they thought of the challenge in this manner then they would never dare step up to their keyboards and presume to write anything about Apple, but alas, they do not. The ego wins and bullshit gets written and posted daily in their endless chase for reader's attention and advertiser dollars.Edited by RadarTheKat - 7/27/14 at 4:47am