Tuesday, 18 October 2011 18:42

The Only, and I Mean the Only, Investment/Research House To Warn Of An Apple Miss Is Vindicated!!! Featured

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I have received SO MUCH flack over the last year for pointing out the obvious FACT that Apple's phenomenal growth will be hit by Android's extra-phenomenal growth, it has been borderline disheartening. Well, the time is hear folks, and as is usual, logic. common sense and rational thinking rule the day once again. The results should be interesting, if not immediate, for many Apple investors and consumers are beyond loyal and ede to borderline fanatic. This portends much more irrational emotion in decision making and potentially unnecessarily drastic actions in the end. What do I mean? Well, Apple is purportedly just under 7% of the NASDAQ. If the Apple religion falls out of fad... Well, look out below! This may not happen immediately, for the love affair is truly torrid, and all sorts of excuses will be made. At the end of the day (or fiscal year, to be more accurate) the reality is bound to hit that Apple is a C corporation like everyone else and is subject to market pressures and competition, and truly does not fart fairy dust.

Of course, logic would dictate that the (literally) hundreds of hate mails I received should be replaced with hundreds of "Hey, Reg, you were right" mails, but it won't happen due to the fact that the nature of those that generated the hate mails forbids them from examining fact and instead allows them to be guided by a bisection of corporate marketing, brand loyalty and emotion. It should be quite interesting to see what the responses to this article will be in the comments section. This is a long post, but more than worth you time. I urge you to read in its entirety, or at least up until the part that reminisces:

"In our analysis of Apple, we are using real world assumptions of future performance derived from backing in to the low balling this company is prone to. If you look at its history carefully you can gauge what management is comfortable with, hence what they may be capable of on the margin. Using these more realistic numbers, it is much more likely Apple will deliver a miss in the upcoming quarters in its battle with the Android! The following is the reason why..."

Early last year, I started tracking the rapid ascent of ultra mobile computing in my Mobile Computing Wars series. At that time, I didn't have a favored winner, but as I researched more and dug deeper, clear patterns started to emerge. These patterns simply got clearer and stronger as time progressed, and it ended in my putting out highly contrarian research on Google in public - Google’s Q1 2011 Review: Part 2 Of My Comments On The Gross Misvaluation of Google and in substantially more detail in private -the subscriber forensic analysis (63 pg Google Forensic Valuation, to plug in your own assumptions see Google Valuation Model (pro and institutional).

I also issued similarly contrarian research on Apple: File Icon Apple – Competition and Cost Structure).

Of course, the mainstream media and the Sell Side of Wall Street took the opposite sides of these bets, to wit: Goldman’s $430 Target, Screaming Buy On Apple At Its All Time High Is In Direct Contravention To Reggie Middleton’s Logic – Who’s Right? Well, Who Has Been More Right In The Past? and Reggie Middleton Takes The Challenge To Goldman Sach’s Apple Proclamation One Step Farther, Apple’s Closed System Risks Failure!”. Realize that It Should Now Be Common Knowledge That Goldman’s Investment Advice Sucks. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that there is any credibility in said proclamations, though. Reference this priceless nugget in light of the links above... Goldman Sells Nearly Half $Billion Of Apple Stock Directly Into Their Client’s Conviction Buy Recommendation: Guess Who Really Agrees With Reggie Now!I'd also like to reiterate, I've Told You Before, And I'll Tell You Again - Goldman Sachs Investment Advice Sucks!!!

Well, as luck would have it, the Street was wrong on Google, see Did A Blog Best Wall Street's Best of the Best In Guaging The True Value of Google? We Have To Think More Like An Entrepeneur & Less Like A Wall Street Analyst July 19th, 2011.

There were wrong on Apple, and to be absolutely honest, they are wrong in general - reference Did Reggie Middleton, a Blogger at BoomBustBlog, Best Wall Streets Best of the Best? Not that this tidbit of fact and simple math will stop the sheeple from shoveling over billions upon billions of dollars to this industry to be recycled back into the bonus pool, versus supporting truly independent research such as BoomBustBlog, no matter HOW many times I'm right and they are proven wrong - and it has been a lot, trust me.

We also had pundits in private equity who I would have normally assumed should have know better jump on the Apple wagon, as excerpted from My Thoughts on Roger McNamee's View of Google and Mobile Computing...

Of note, pundit recommended long Apple and short Google for guaranteed profits. Google blew out numbers this quarter (Our Uber Growth Thesis For Google Is Intact and Performing Well) and Apple missed, all the while Google is strategically positioned to do much, much more damage. As for the comment about nobody makes money from Android, well those entities that make money from Android disagree. I have outlined this in the first quarter, reference Apple Gears Up To Combat The Margin Compression That Apparently Only It, Google & Reggie Middleton Sees Coming Monday, February 14th, 2011.

On this point, I must give props to Herb Greenberg for allowing me to espouse my contrarian, yet highly accurate mantra concerning Apple as well as US banks' derivative exposure through the mainstream, namely CNBC. The derivate issues have recently reported by Bloomberg and ZeroHedge, reinforcing my many warnings, ex. So, When Does 3+5=4? When You Aggregate A Bunch Of Risky Banks & Then Pretend That You Didn't?

Of course, as timing would have it, I predicted that Apple would miss 4 to 6 quarters after the pronouncement I made on international TV exactly 1 year ago via CNBC on the eve of Apple's earnings (3:40 into the video). Exactly 4 quarters later.... Hmmm!

Simple math, simple business logic, simply common sense, yet the Apple hordes attacked relentlessly. Listen, what Google has created to compete with Apple, RIM, MSFT and Nokia, was not a new technology - but a new way of doing business. Less than free was their new business model and it proved to be pretty damn effective.

Margin compression follows a slip in sales due to competition. You see, in order for Apple to maintain its unit growth, it wiill have invest more into the product, cut costs, or both. Any scenario leads to margin compression. Since I have written so much on this topic, I will not rehash, but simply point to the prophetic post I made two weeks ago in calling for what I considered to be the obvious: Sliced Apple Margins For Dinner?

In the meantime, let's parse today's news event: Apple Misses Big on Earnings, Revenue; Shares Tumble

Apple posted a rare miss on both earnings and revenue as far fewer iPhones were sold during the quarter than expected. Shares tumbled after-hours.

Again, it's Apple's expectations that will be the eventual undoing of this company as an investment. They are simply unrealistic, as I will get to in a moment, but first I'd like to point out the extreme favoritism that is still given to this company by the MSM.

Bloomberg reports: Apple Misses Estimates on Delayed Sales

Apple Inc. (AAPL) fell in German trading after profit missed analysts’ predictions for the first time in at least six years, evidence that customers delayed iPhone purchases before the release of the latest model.

This statement is bullshit. Customers delay purchases right before the release of every new model, yet that somehow didn't cause a miss for the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4, did it? iPhone's sales dissappointed for one reason, and one reason only!!!


Profit was $6.62 billion, or $7.05 a share in the fiscal fourth quarter, compared with $4.31 billion, or $4.64 a share, a year earlier, Cupertino, California-based Apple said yesterday in a statement. That missed analysts’ predicted profit of $7.31 a share, the first disappointment from Apple in at least 26 quarters.

Apple sold 17.07 million iPhones, less than the 20 million projected by analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, as consumers held out for the iPhone 4S, released after the close of the period that ended Sept. 24. The shortfall underscores the growing importance to Apple for the iPhone, which was introduced in 2007 and accounted for 39 percent of revenue last quarter.

“The market was expecting very strong iPhone sales going into the product launch,” said Giri Cherukuri, head trader at Oakbrook Investments LLC, which holds Apple shares. “It stands to reason that a lot of people were waiting for the new iPhone to come out.”

Again, Bullshit! Why didn't this phenomena occur during the last three product launches? Oh yeah, that's right, because Android wasn't up to speed by then.

Apple shares dropped as much as 7.3 percent to the equivalent of $391.75 in German trading and were down 6.4 percent as of 9:03 a.m. in Frankfurt. Yesterday, the stock fell 6.3 percent to $395.50 in extended U.S. trading. The stock had closed at $422.24 in New York.

Sales of the smartphone are rebounding this quarter, and the decline in Apple shares represents a “buying opportunity,” said Cherukuri, whose firm is based in Lisle, Illinois.

Yeah, and thereing lies the problem, shares of Apple are always a buying opporutunity, no matter what the facts or circumstances are, right?

As excerpted from Apple on the Margin:

Writing about Apple is like writing about gold, despite the fact that there is a strong fundamental argument for or against it, the emotional response and lack of empirical outlook clouds the fundamentals, ex. Apple  and the iPhone vs Android or Gold and fiat currencies/inflation. I am not a Apple hater, and I am probably one of the most advanced iPad users you know of. Apple has its pluses and minuses, but people (including many professionals) are failing to look at the facts and instead are joining their respective "fanboi" clubs. Thus, in continuing with my attempt to educate my readers on the folly of believing Apple's position to be unassailable, I am illustrating exactly how vulnerable Apple is to either a compression of margin on the iPhone or a slow down in sales. Apple is just penetrating the market and has a fertile field to conquer, it is just that it will not be able to pursue that field devoid of competition as it has over the past 3 years. This should dictate an adjustment to the highly optimistic aura attached to the multiples used in forecasting economic results.

The graph below illustrates the importance the iPhone represents to Apple's franchise. Believe it or not, this graph actually understates the importance of the iPhone to Apple for while it brings in 45% of the revenues, it is responsible for about 70% of the profits. Apple has become too reliant on one product, although that reliance was borne from the fabulous success of said product. While Apple will probably derive some much needed revenue diversification from iPad sales, the iPad will face the same hurdles that the iPhone is coming up against - and that is competition from Android-based devices and potentially even Windows Mobile 7 8 (albeit this is an admittedly much more speculative statement).

Breaking the argument down even further, you see how the iPod and the iPhone have literally transformed this company. While I am sure it will continue to be fantastic company with cool products, I doubt very seriously that it will be able to grow in the future as it has in during the last 7 years.

The saving grace is that the smart phone and portable computing market will grow quite quickly, allowing companies with dwindling market share to still capture increasing revenues. The ugly reality is that those revenues will have to be burdened with increasing R&D, marketing and distribution costs since the amount of competition will probably scale faster than the market itself. That, my friends, is a very good thing for you and I, the consumer!

All paying subscribers are welcome to download the mini-model which shows Apple's earnings sensitivity to margin compression through competition. This is the very crux of determining the extent of Apple's success or lack thereof, in the near to medium term. Click here to download (File Icon Apple iPhone Profit Margin Scenario Analysis Model), and click here to subscribe.

... Apple said that while iPhone sales fell off last quarter, the holiday quarter will be its best yet. First-quarter per- share earnings will be about $9.30 on sales of about $37 billion, Apple said in the statement.

That surpassed analysts’ projections, suggesting that iPhone sales are bouncing back with the release of the iPhone 4S, which set a record with debut-weekend sales of 4 million.

“In our wildest dreams, we couldn’t have gotten off to as great a start as we did with the iPhone 4S,” Cook said on the call. The drop in demand for iPhones in the second half of last quarter was “substantial,” said Cook.

This may very well be the case. I don't doubt it, but it also doesn't negate the generally stagnating growth trend - see Google's Android Now Leads In Market Share, Growth Rate and Potential Buyer Preference. Apple released a new product on two new carriers, which at best matches (and that's at best, I believe it falls far short) the Android flaghip device from 6 months ago! This much wider distribution network coupled with the iPhone popularity is bound to boost sales, but the popularity of Android (now the number 1 OS, globally and domestically, with the highest growth rate, to boot) make it unliekly Apple can regain the growth crown through marketing alone. It is now quickly becoming common knowledge that high end Android phones such as the Samsumg Galaxy S II series handily outperform anything from Apple thus far. As a result, the sales are becoming more fad generated and less technology/usability driven. We all know what happens to very fad, don't we? Apple will have to invest heavily into the tech, and that ain't free nor is it a guarantee for success. Hence the margin compression thesis. Look to my writings from last summer to determine the common sense reasons why Apple is at risk despite the lovefest that the media, the sell side of Wall Street and the equity markets have for it: . After nearly a year of showing nearly incontrovertible evidence that Apple has seen its heyday, the mainstream media is catching on. First a quick overview of my thoughts...

    1. Look & Listen Closely As The Solitary Margin Compression Theory Slowly Bears Fruit: Apple to Drop Flagship iPad Prices?
    2. Steve Jobs Calls End Of the PC, We Call The End Of The Fat Margin Tablet – Including The Pretty iPad, With Proof! 
    3. Is The Evidence For An Apple Margin Collapse Now Incontrovertible? 
    4. I Absolutely Dare Anyone To Read This And Still Not Consider The Probability (Not Possibility) Of Apple Suffering From Margin Compression

Smartphone Rivals

The new touchscreen handset is vying with new smartphones from companies including Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. (2498), which use Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

As excerpted from "Is The Evidence For An Apple Margin Collapse Now Incontrovertible?" 5/19/11:

This is going to be a much tougher fight for Apple than even that of the smartphone market, and you see how well Android did in that category as the current market leader in both footprint and growth rate. Literally98% more competition is coming down the pike this year, and products are already widely reviewed as at parity or superior in Apple's chief diversification segment (remember, derives ~70%  of its profits from the iPhone). With that, even the iPhone is supremely challenged by Apple's own parts vendors, Reference :

Apple's biggest suppliers (the most important parts vendors for the products that contributes about 75% of Apple's profits) and the companies that Apples is currently embroiled in global litigation with (no wonder why) also produce similar products, ex. the LG Optimus 3D and the Samsung Galaxy S II.

Speaking of the Samsung Galaxy, this newest refresh is nearly universally thought of to be the best smartphone available, including the Apple iPhone. I haven't found a single review yet that has said otherwise. This is an impressive feat considering how "Apple-centric" the media currently is. Reference this snippet from Endgadget:

For a handset with such a broad range of standout features and specs, the Galaxy S II is remarkably easy to summarize. It's the best Android smartphone yet, but more importantly, it might well be the best smartphone, period. Of course, a 4.3-inch screen size won't suit everyone, no matter how stupendously thin the device that carries it may be, and we also can't say for sure that the Galaxy S II would justify a long-term iOS user foresaking his investment into one ecosystem and making the leap to another. Nonetheless, if you're asking us what smartphone to buy today, unconstrained by such externalities, the Galaxy S II would be the clear choice. Sometimes it's just as simple as that.

Endgadget is not the only reviewer to go head over heals over Android super-powered phones. Check it out, courtesy of onlinesocialmedia.net:

    1. Dan Sung of Pocket-Lint rates the phone with 4.5 out of 5 stars and calls it a “cracking experience” and like Engadget, “better than any other Android smartphone.” Very minor complaints included the 1080p DLNA streaming, which was noted could be better, plus minor quibbles with the camera lens but overall the conclusion is that “no one buying this superphone will have anything to complain about.
    2. Chris Davies over on Slash Gear. Guess what, Davies also says, “this could well be the best Android smartphone on the market today” and noted that iPhone users that were shown the Galaxy S II said they could have their heads turned by it. There were minor criticisms, such as the keyboard, but these were said to “pale in comparison to the Samsung’s strengths.” In conclusion Davies says “we’re running out of reasons not to buy the Galaxy S II.”
    3. Electric Pig by Ben Sillis, who gave the phone a staggering 5 out of 5 star rating and says “Samsung has triumphed again with theSamsung Galaxy S 2.” There are some quibbles about software in this review but not enough to get in the way of it being a “surefire contender for phone of the year,” and again the superb display gets a special mention.

... Apple’s fourth-quarter revenue was $28.3 billion, below the $29.6 billion predicted by analysts. Missing expectations caught investors by surprise since the company has so consistently beaten predictions. During the previous 19 quarters, Apple had exceeded profit estimates by an average 28 percent, according to Piper Jaffray Cos.

‘Clueless’

“Shame on me and other investors who got lulled into complacency based on how much they’ve beaten estimates in the past,” said David Rolfe, chief investment officer at Apple investor at Wedgewood Partners Inc.

Apple had said in July that it expected sales and profit to fall because of changes to its product lineup.

“It’s not the company that missed, it’s the people who follow Apple that are clueless,” said Trip Chowdhry, an analyst at Global Equities Research in San Francisco.

Analysts may revisit projections that Apple will continue to grow at a record rate and exceed estimates, said Michael Obuchowski, chief investment officer at First Empire Asset Management.

“That the company can maintain the growth rate that some of the analysts envision is not very realistic,” he said. “There will be a reevaluation of the analysts’ expectations.”

"Clueless"! “Shame on me and other investors who got lulled into complacency"!

Taken right out of the Reggie Middleton playbook! Refereince Apple Once Again Surprises The Unsurprisingly Inept Analyst Estimates: When Will Investors Catch On To The Earnings Management Game?: I will repost (for the 6th time) the earnings guidance snippet and challenge readers to possibility that we may have a very valid point.

In the meantime, sheeple-like investors are being hoodwinked by quarter after quarter of Apple blow out earnings. Don't get me wrong. I feel and fully acknowledge that Apple is executing on all 8 cylinders of a 6 cylinder engine, but it still has its real world limitations. Apple will start to bump up against these limitation over the next 4 quarters, and the signs of this bump are already apparent. Of course, the signs are being handily masked by the games that Apple management and the sell side analysts of Wall Street play, with the "Sheeple" retail and the lazier component of the institutional investors being put out to take the eventual bullet.

Riddle me this - If Apple can consistently beat the estimates of your favorite analysts quarter after quarter, after quarter - for 11 quarters straight, shouldn't you fire said analysts for incompetency in lieu of celebrating Apple's ability to surprise? After all, it is no longer a surprise after the 11th consecutive occurrence, is it? I would be surprised if my readers were surprised by an Apple surprise. Seriously! Apple management consistently lowballs guidance to such an extent that it can easily manage, no - actually create outperformance. This has has a very positive effect on their valuation. Of course, I do not blame Apple management for this, of they are charged with maximizing shareholder return. The analytical community and the (sheeple) investors which they serve is another matter though. Subscribers can download the data that shows the blatant game being played between Apple and the Sell Side here: File Icon Apple Earnings Guidance Analysis. Those who need to subscribe can do so here.

Below, I drilled down on the date and used a percentage difference view to illustrate the improvement in P/E stemming from the earnings beats.

In our analysis of Apple, we are using real world assumptions of future performance derived from backing in to the low balling this company is prone to. If you look at its history carefully you can gauge what management is comfortable with, hence what they may be capable of on the margin. Using these more realistic numbers, it is much more likely Apple will deliver a miss in the upcoming quarters in its battle with the Android! The following is the reason why...

In the meantime, more inaccurate and uncalled for Apple bias in the media that will do naught but cause losses for investors that bother to pay it any attention... Bloomberg reports Google, Samsung Announce Updated Android Phone:

“Ice Cream Sandwich could provide the critical push in the race to catch Apple,” said Mark Newman, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., who is based in Hong Kong. “Apple’s software is still on the cutting edge.”

This is outright nonsense! Apple's most recent OS5 release simply brings iOS up to par with what Androids are currently running since the beginning of this year. As a matter of fact, as of today, Apple's tech is still behind since Google just released an OS update (Ice Cream Sandwich) that again puts it leaps and bounds above the Apple OS. 

Apple’s new iPhone was unveiled earlier this month with Siri technology, which lets users ask for weather updates, make calendar appointments or send messages without tapping on the keyboard. The iPhone is the company’s best-selling product.

The article fails to mention that this feature was available in Android from the beginning of the year, at least. Again Apple is playing catch up, but it has not yet caught up!

The latest Android incarnation also offers easier multitasking and a new People app, which helps check status updates from Google+ and other social networks.... Android controlled 43.4 percent of the global smartphone market in the second quarter, while Apple’s iOS had an 18.2 percent share, according to researcher Gartner Inc.

This is up from zero hust three or so years ago, reference:

  1. More of the Android Onslaught: Increasing Handset Revenues and Growth
  2. The Complete, 63 pg Google Forensic Valuation is Available for Download

For tablets, Apple’s iOS dominated with 61.3 percent market share in the second quarter, according to research company Strategy Analytics. Android accounted for 30.1 percent of the tablet market.

Take note that the the tablet market is taking a very similar path to the phone market where Apple started with ~90% share and dropped very, very quickly with no explicit recognition of such from the media or the sell side. Reference:

 

Archived 2010 posts on the Creatively Destructive Pace of Technology Innovation and the Paradigm Shift known as the Mobile Computing Wars!

  1. There Is Another Paradigm Shift Coming in Technology and Media: Apple, Microsoft and Google Know its Winner Takes All
  2. The Mobile Computing and Content Wars: Part 2, the Google Response to the Paradigm Shift
  3. An Introduction to How Apple Apple Will Compete With the Google/Android Onslaught
  4. This article should drive the point home: 
  5. A First in the Mainstream Media: Apple’s Flagship Product Loses In a Comparison Review to HTC’s Google-Powered Phone
  6. After Getting a Glimpse of the New Windows Phone 7 Functionality, RIMM is Looking More Like a Short Play
  7. RIM Smart Phone Market Share, RIP?
  8. Android is gaining preference as the long-term choice of application developers
  9. A Glimpse of the BoomBustBlog Internal Discussion Concerning the Fate of Apple
  10. Math and the Pace of Smart Phone Innovation May Take a Byte Out of Apple’s (Short-lived?) Dominance
  11. Apple on the Margin
  12. RIM Smart Phone Market Share, RIP?
  13. Motorola, the Company That INVENTED the Cellphone is Trying to Uninvent the iPad With Android
  14. Android Now Outselling iOS? Explaining the Game of Chess That Google Plays in the Smart Phone Space
  15. More of the Android Onslaught: Increasing Handset Revenues and Growth
  16. The BoomBustBlog Multivariate Research in Motion Valuation Model: Ready for Download
  17. The Complete, 63 pg Google Forensic Valuation is Available for Download
  18. iSuppli Continues to Validate BoomBustBlog’s Original Thesis: Android as the Viral Game Changer!
  19. BoomBustBlog Research Hits Another One Out the Park! Google up nearly 10% after hours, true blowout earnings unlike JPM
  20. As I Warned in June, DO NOT DISCOUNT Microsoft in This Mobile Computing War! Their Marketing Campaign is PURE GENIUS! and it Appears as if the Phone Ain’t Bad Either
  21. Reggie Middleton Wasn’t the ONLY Openly Apple Bear in the Blogoshpere, Was He?
Last modified on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 08:46

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