Apple (AAPL) investors are faced with a Dickensian “best of times, worst of times” choice lately. Is AAPL a bargain, with its dominance and cash hoard — or is Apple stock on the wane as it loses its luster both on Wall Street and with consumers?
AAPL bears seem to have held the upper hand in 2013, with Apple stock price down over 32% year-to-date. But don’t count out the AAPL bulls just yet.
Apple was just was named the world’s most valuable brand this week in the annual Interbrand report, pushing out Coca-Cola (KO) after a 13-year run at the top for the soft-drink giant.
And at the same time, AAPL stock has been riding the launch of a new fleet of iPhones and a bigger foray into Asia thanks to a key partnership with carrier China Mobile (CHL).
Sentiment is a big driver of Apple stock, yes. But when you look at the facts behind these headlines, it’s undeniable that AAPL has continued power … and, if things go right, continued growth ahead of it.
AAPL Looks Abroad
For starters, keep in mind that the rankings from Interbrand are global in nature. It’s undeniable that Apple stock and AAPL products have been a cult sensation in America for some time. But the fact that Interbrand recently pushed Apple to the top of the list — even as some think the brand is fading in the U.S. — is noteworthy.
Consider that a year ago, when Apple filed its annual report with the SEC, it noted just $57.5 billion in net sales from the Americas vs. $156.5 billion in total net sales. The fact that now two-thirds of Apple revenue comes from a different continent is a pretty amazing thing — especially when you consider the size of those AAPL numbers.
And going forward, Apple is now planning to ship its less-expensive iPhones to China in connection with mega telecom carrier China Mobile. The iPhone 5C may admittedly not be a dramatic boost to Apple stock price thanks to U.S. sales, but China Mobile does not provide subsidies — and the lower-earning Chinese customers of CHL will see a cheaper iPhone as an appealing offering.
Considering there are 700 million users on China Mobile, the iPhone 5C could be a serious driver of Apple stock price if it catches on globally.
Apple Is Complex and Global
If any of this global Apple news is unfamiliar to you, then start reading up on AAPL from a global perspective ASAP. Because while Apple stock price surely waxes and wanes right now based on sentiment, the global battle for market share is what’s really going to define this stock going forward.
We all know about the $100 billion dividend and buyback plan for AAPL stock, the massive stockpile of nearly $147 billion in cash and investments and of course the presence of activist investor Carl Icahn as a main Apple stock owner right now.
But the narrative that some aren’t paying attention to is this steady march overseas. While less expensive offerings like a bargain iPad or a cheap iPhone may sound like a race to the bottom in margins, keep in mind that Apple commanded a mere 5% market share in China to start the year. Google (GOOG) Android devices remain dominant, with Samsung (SSNLF) sucking up about 18% of the market with its Galaxy line.
Turning that 5% slice of China’s mobile market into a 10% market share — something that many experts say is a possibility thanks to the CHL deal — would be a huge win, even if the margins aren’t spectacular.
And besides, haven’t investors come to grips with the end of AAPL as an exclusive and high-margin gadget company? Hasn’t Apple stock price already baked in this trend after the stock posted its first year-over-year profit decline in a decade?
To me, margins and cash and Carl Icahn are all old news. Apple stock clawing back market share overseas is going to be the defining story of AAPL going forward … and the best opportunity for bulls to make good money in this tech giant.
Related Reading on Apple Stock
- On Apple and its global marketing appeal. (CNBC)
- China Mobile and Apple join up. (The Slant)
- IDC says Apple could double market share in China. (Digits via WSJ)
Jeff Reeves is the editor of InvestorPlace.com and the author of The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.