CUPERTINO, Calif., April 23, 2014 – Apple (AAPL) shocked complacent traders after today’s close by declaring a massive 7 for 1 stock split and reporting a big second quarter earnings beat.
Completely unexpected by financial pundits, Apple’s announced stock split is being characterized as one of the biggest in the S&P 500’s recent history, leading to speculation that the company is positioning itself to enter the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) at some future point.
More immediately significant, however, are the company’s earnings. Apple reported that second-quarter profits soared to $10.2 billion–$11.62 per share—as opposed to year-earlier quarterly profits of $9.5 billion, or $10.09 per share. Add to that an 8% dividend increase and an increased share buyback announcement, and you’re talking real value here.
Analysts and pundits had estimated the current per-share earnings figure to be $10.19, a substantial miscalculation likely based on the financial media’s current trend of badmouthing AAPL no matter what it does. In addition, they never anticipated the dividend and share buyback boosts. Apple is doomed. It’s their story and they’re sticking with it.
Typical of the financial media’s clueless trend, CNBC is currently trumpeting the vapid pronouncements of AAPL perma-bear, Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry. Clearly regarding Apple as a permanently bad trip, Chowdhry thinks that the stock split “does little to staunch fears that the company is losing the innovation game to rivals, Google in particular,” he told CNBC.
“If anything, the move shows that Apple’s board is aware of the fact that the company has lost billions in market share since Tim Cook took over,” stated Chowdhry in the report.
Really? How has the company lost “billions” when it continues to be a hugely profitable concern?
“Apple needs to create product,” prattled Chowdhry, adding “Consumers don’t care about the stock, and are asking ‘where’s my iWatch?’” Note to Tripper: Nobody will care about the iWatch until it happens. And BTW, how popular are other vendors’ multi-tasking watches right now?
It’s a good bet that Apple’s key strategy for growth and product introductions right now is based on their ability to engineer some kind of harmonic convergence with their Apple TV product and substantial vendor content availability. Such a strategy would open yet another new product area, something Apple has consistently accomplished since the Second Coming of the late Steve Jobs.
However, unlike other significant new product and new product category introductions like the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, a product based on the harmonic convergence of devices and entertainment options in the cable/fiber/broadband universe means that Apple—and Cook—must figure out a way to engineer the kind of working partnership that the company once negotiated with AT&T (T) in its initial breakthrough iPhone agreement.
Content purveyors, however, are wary of negotiating with Apple, which somehow has a way of scoring the most points in such arrangements. And that, rather than technology, is what’s causing delay after delay in the introduction of Apple’s likely revolutionary new, consumer friendly answer to content delivery.
The rumored iWatch is but a sideshow to this. And that’s where Chowdhry’s snide comments get the whole picture entirely wrong. Looking back on Chowdhry’s anti-Apple fulminations over the years, it’s easy to see that he actually has a near-perfect score for wrong calls on the company and the stock.
Having predicted in times past that the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad would totally tank, Chowdhry also went on record predicting in 2003 that AAPL would likely be heading for bankruptcy court in short order. This constant contrarianism is typical of a reporter or analyst who’s trying to gain attention and those all-important page views by making outrageous and largely unsupportable declarations to attract outraged comments and rejoinders. Such pundits know that the tempest will blow over in a week anyway, and two or three weeks later, nobody will remember their idiotic and unfounded pronouncements.
Chowdhry reminds us of another Apple perma-bear from an earlier time, the reliably wrong John Dvorak who made a living out of trashing the company in contrarian columns published monthly in Macintosh-oriented magazines and articles.
Dvorak, too, seemed to relish the hornet’s nest he’d stir up with each and every negative Mac-trashing article he’d conjure up. Fact is, though, writing most prominently about Apple in the 1990s, Dvorak sometimes got dangerously close to the truth in an era when the corporate dunces who ran the company at the time had zero idea how to compete with the PC juggernaut, even though their product remained largely superior.
Chowdhry, however, has no such excuse. Introducing the wrong new product at the wrong time, just because the Tripper wants them to, is no way to run a company, and Jobs himself would agree. Cook is looking to do something revolutionary once again, and these things take time.
But Chowdhry doesn’t care. Ditto CNBC, which continues to go back to the usual suspects, even when they’re consistently wrong. Like Chowdhry. Or like the hapless, once respectable Dennis Gartman, whose commodities and stock calls lately have been so bad that a monkey throwing darts could likely outpoint him.
One must conclude that CNBC itself, whose numbers are dropping into the tank, is shilling for those page views and viewers as well, no matter what the cost to the cable network’s once decent journalistic reputation.
As for Apple itself, the stock was clobbered today, likely by short-sellers buying the kind of pre-announcement nonsense shameless book-talkers like Chowdhry were peddling. In after-hours trading, however, once the numbers were out, APPL exploded some 7.5% to the upside.
Tomorrow’s numbers could be all over the board. But AAPL clearly remains an eminently investible, if volatile stock.
One caveat, though. As tempting as it might be to try to ride the stock-split wave that’s likely to result either tomorrow or soon, we’d step back from AAPL right now even if it takes off like a rocket, short term. It has been true again and again over the years that chasing an about-to-split stock is generally a poor investing idea. That’s true here as well, even if you end up leaving some money on the table.
After all, after the AAPL split, which will be effective June 9, what you’ll really have is seven times as many AAPL shares as you started out with. But…those new shares will be only worth the same amount, more or less, as the total amount you paid for the original shares.
The real function of a stock split is really to open up the shares to a wider array of investors who can afford to purchase the stock in the typical round lot of 100 shares. It doesn’t add value to the shares per se, something that many investors seem to forget in the excitement surrounding such an announcement.
The Apple story continues to be compelling. While the company may be slowly on its way to transforming into a slower growth story over the next decade, its days of innovative product introductions are far from over. And in the meantime, it continues to remain hugely profitable while continuing to raise its dividend and continue with stock buybacks, also part of today’s announcements.
So why listen to click-seekers like Chowdhry or CNBC? Just look at the facts and judge for yourself. And let Chowdhry tout his analysis and his company’s book to an empty room.
UPDATE: AAPL is currently up an astonishing 42+ points in early morning trading on Thursday, April 24, up nearly 10% on above average volume.