David Trainer75 Comments
May 14 2013
Buy? What no public service ala AAPL? Why is that?
No one paid him to squeeze out an attention grabbing link-bait story as a “public service” on those others.
Apple reported net income of $13.1 billion in the December 2012 quarter, $9.5 billion in the March 2013 quarter and I am projecting $37 billion for the year. However, in Trainer’s analysis he has NOPAT (which is close to net income) of only $8 billion for the year. Unless he is expecting Apple to lose money for the rest of this year, I don’t think the analysis makes sense.
In studying David Trainer’s valuation, I’ve come to the conclusion that his assumptions and model are quite nonsensical.
Let me start out with a question. What’s something that is really unusual about Apple compared to all other companies? Answer: They have MASSIVE amounts of cash. This large cash position will not continue to exist into the future. They will distribute it to shareholders or make acquisitions, but for now, they have it sitting on their balance sheet. Now David’s main rationale for why AAPL is overvalued is that their ROIC is unrealistically high. But he’s looking at the wrong financial ratio. That’s because;
ROIC is calculated as (Net Operating Profit – Adjusted Taxes)/(Invested Capital)
And Invested Capital is calculated as: Total Debt and Leases + Total Equity – Nonoperating Cash and Investments
As you can see, Invested Capital is greatly influenced by the amount of Nonoperating Cash and Investments which the company possesses. In the case of Apple, they have a TON of Nonoperating Cash. David uses an ROIC of 271% that was calculated by a data provider which may include the debt Apple just added to the Capital Structure. But just to show you how much non-operating cash skews the ROIC calculation, let’s just see what the ROIC looked like before they added $17B of debt to the capital structure.
ROIC prior to debt comes out to:
(Net Operating Profit – Adjusted Taxes) = $38.685B
Invested Capital = ($135.5B in Book Value of Equity + no Debt + $3.87B in Leases – $144.7B in Cash) = -$5.33B
ROIC = (38.685)/(-5.33)= -726%
So considering Apple’s massive cash position, it’s not possible to calculate anything BUT a nonsensical number for ROIC. Additionally, it’s a terrible financial ratio to use if you want to conduct a relative analysis. David compares Apple with Microsoft and other competitors, yet each of them has their own cash issues, therefore making them impossible to compare using ROIC.
Perhaps most disturbingly, instead of doing a DCF valuation, which is the appropriate thing to do for Apple, David does a perpetuity cash flow valuation. In addition, he uses NOPAT, which is only an estimation for FCFF. But you can’t use NOPAT if there’s going to be any growth. That’s because, among other things, investments in CAPEX and depreciation don’t match up. So instead of dealing growth and future investments in CAPEX, working capital, etc., he decides that starting TOMORROW, Apple does not grow and its margins will plummet. That way he can use NOPAT and a perpetuity formula that models zero growth. Additionally, Under the perpetuity assumption, Apple is going to suddenly start paying out all available cash to shareholders. Meaning all cash that’s left over after they cover all debt obligations and maintenance CAPEX (where CAPEX = Depreciation). Apple doesn’t have a history of doing any of these things, nor have they shown any desire to start doing it now. So why would he model that in his valuation?
Next, David’s rationale for slashing Apple’s margins is that profitability levels should naturally revert towards the mean in a free market economy, to which I agree. HOWEVER, this doesn’t happen overnight. He’s completely ignoring market forces, economics, and general common sense.
I estimated his valuation breakdown looks something like this:
Perpetuity Value = NOPAT/Cost of Capital
($7.69B NOPAT)/(7.15%) ≈ $108.6B
$108.6 Perpetuity Value
+ $150 cash per share
– $17 debt (The debt they just took on)
– $1.6 option value per share
Now hold on as I explain just how extreme David’s assumptions are:
The perpetuity value based on NOPAT is calculated assuming that Apple’s NOPAT will fall from $41.7 Billion last year to $7.69 starting TOMORROW. That means that the NOPAT Margin falls from 26.6% to 4.9% IMMEDIATELY. Then, to discount this cash flow estimate, it appears that he used an average of the WACC from the last two years that he obtained from a data provider and came up with a 7.15% cost of capital. Which seems aggressively low considering Prof. Damodaran’s WACC (before the addition of debt) is 11.29%. Had he used the same WACC as Prof Damodaran, he would have found a price per share of $176.50. Well below the $428 it is trading at today and close to the $150 it has in cash. At the end of the year, Apple will probably have $176.50/share in cash alone!
Summary of his assumptions
– Zero growth starting tomorrow.
– Maximum dividend payouts starting tomorrow.
– Massive reduction in operating margins starting tomorrow.
Now, If David wanted to do a better comparison, how about ROE which is not skewed by cash holdings. Microsoft’s ROE is 22.58% and Apple’s is 33.34% according to yahoo finance. Now you could suggest that Apple’s will skew down below MSFT overtime because AAPL is a hardware and software manufacturer and they tend to make lower ROE. If he went with ROE instead of ROIC, his report would have more credibility.
So I decided to determine what a “worst” case might look like. Using Prof. Damodaran’s DCF valuation spreadsheet for Apple. I Changed two of his normal case assumptions; First I changed growth to the following pattern: -5% growth for years 1-5 and for years 6-10, growth slowly recovers from -5% growth to 1.73% growth at the Terminal Date (Year 10). Using this assumption, Apple’s sales fall from the most recent year, $169B, to $126B in the terminal year (year 10). Also, their Operating Margin lowers in a straight-line manner from 31% in their current year to 12% in year 10. Under this scenario, the stock is worth $334.72/share. According to these assumptions, the stock would be 28% overvalued. But keep in mind, they are “worst” case assumptions. Under Prof. Damodaran’s valuation, the stock is 37.3% undervalued based on his intrinsic value of $588/share.
David’s “valuation” = $240/share, or 44% overvalued.
My worst case scenario = $334.72/share, or 28% overvalued.
Damodaran’s normal case scenario = $588/share, or 37.3% undervalued.
I still feel quite comfortable with Apple’s current risk/return profile, especially considering the fact that David’s valuation holds no water. So I’m content to keep Apple in my portfolio moving forward.
> What’s something that is really unusual
> about Apple compared to all other
> companies? Answer: They have MASSIVE
> amounts of cash.
The point of a ROIC/EVA is to only analyse the returns the company is generating on the capital that’s deployed in its operations. That is why the cash is stripped out of the numerator (note that NOPAT is calculated on a pre-interest basis) and the denominator (IC) strips out cash and debt.
Imagine if the Bill & Melinda Gate Foundation ran a souvenir shop which make $1000 of NOPAT a month. To calculate the ROIC you’d divide that by the assets it had (the shop, the stock etc). You wouldn’t divide it by the total cash and assets of the foundation.
> David compares Apple with Microsoft and
> other competitors, yet each of them has
> their own cash issues, therefore making
> them impossible to compare using ROIC.
That’s precisely why you strip non-op cash out of IC. To ensure comparability with other companies.
re: Your point about debt see the IC calc posted above – note this is calculated from the 2012 balance sheet so there is no debt issuance to cloud the issue.
> Perhaps most disturbingly, instead of
> doing a DCF valuation, which is the
> appropriate thing to do for Apple, David
> does a perpetuity cash flow valuation.
Errr, why is a DCF not a perpetuity cashflow calculation? When you have your terminal value +10 years out and you capitalise it at (WACC-terminal growth) that looks to me a lot like a perpetuity cashflow calculation. Or am I missing something?
The answer is that DT is doing a DCF valuation – he is just assuming zero growth. That’s what you call a perpetuity.
> Next, David’s rationale for slashing
> Apple’s margins is that profitability
> levels should naturally revert towards the
> mean in a free market economy, to which I
> agree. HOWEVER, this doesn’t happen
Yes, this is the Competitive Advantage Period issue I flagged above.
However we can do some back of fag packet sensitivities around this.
DT’s run-rate of NOPAT is $10bn. Consensus net income (ignore interest for sake of simplicity) is roughly $30bn. Therefore each year of ongoing competitive advantage assuming current return levels is worth about $30bn or $32 /share.
Assume this fades linearly over a five year period (believe me that’s more than enough to see a CAP eroded – viz Nokia / Blackberry) that implies an additional $90 /share of cash generation on top of the $240 base case. That gets you to $330, or 24% below the current share price.
This roughly correlates with your worst case DCF. That’s not surprising as effectively when you cut margins to 10% you are doing the same this as DT cutting ROIC to 70%, you are just inputting it into the model from different cells. Remember the DCF and EVA are mathematically identical, just the cells have been reordered.
So reconciling the two: If you believe AAPL will lose its competitive advantage over the next five years, then AAPL’s shares are worth roughly $330 on either DT + Fade or lower-margin DCF analysis.
A thought experiment: What competitive advantage does the iPhone + Siri + iCloud have over the Galaxy SIV + Google Now + Google? If you are saying Apple’s current ROICs are sustainable you are implicitly saying the Apple package has an overwhelming competitive advantage over the Android package.
I someway agree with your opinion of apple loosing its charisma of coming up with innovation or new magnetic functionalities in existing products. Competitors like Google, Samsung and Amzon are catching up fast on phone, ipod kind of products. Apple is facing too much market share issue from Samsung in developed and emerging markets, as Samsung is fast in producing good phone stuff, thanks to Android software.
Let’s wait and watch in next 2-3 months when apple hold its marketing gimmick show to show what it is holding under wrap. If it is something that no one has expected then IT IS ALL APPLE.
Having billion of cash in pocket has not much worth if company cannot use it to improve future earnings and at the end of day, they have to distribute it to shareholders.
See posts 48 and 55.
Nice article on diminishing competitive advantage of AAPL: http://www.forbes.com/sites/nigamarora/2013/06/03/next-big-thing-in-smartphones-could-be-coming-from-google/
The barbarians are at the gate and they are only getting stronger and louder.
Samsung Electronics notched a high-profile legal victory against Apple, when the U.S. International Trade Commission said it found some of the iPhone maker’s products violated a Samsung patent and issued a limited ban.
The commission issued an exclusion order barring the import of a set of Apple mobile devices. Among them is the iPhone 4, the iPhone 3GS, the iPad 3G, the iPad 2 3G and the iPad 3. The latest Apple products, the iPhone 5 and the fourth-generation of the iPad, were unaffected.
Mr David Trainer, Greetings from Argentina. What are your comments about your statement on May 14 2013 almost 2 months later ?. Thanks a million and all the best.
Thanks for reading. I continue to believe everything I wrote here and think a long term decline in Apple’s ROIC is going to happen. In fact, I went on CNBC just last week to reiterate my argument, which you can see here:
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