Given its $2.8 trillion market capitalization, it may be difficult for some investors to wrap their heads around the idea that Apple (AAPL 0.88%) stock may be a good buy these days. But investors may change their minds after they take a closer look at the company’s underlying cash flow relative to this valuation, as well as Apple’s growth opportunities.
While investors will want to do their own due diligence before they buy shares, here are three bullish points about the company to help you get started.
1. Massive cash flow
Apple’s free cash flow, which is the cold, hard cash left over after all regular business operations and capital expenditures are taken care of, came in at about $108 billion over the trailing 12 months. This means the stock trades at 28 times free cash flow — a reasonable if not attractive valuation for a company with a diverse set of products, a loyal customer base, and a long history of disciplined and value-creating capital allocation decisions from management.
Apple’s substantial cash flow gives it lots of optionality as to how it goes about creating shareholder value. While some of its cash from operations is reinvested back into the business via capital expenditures, the leftover free cash flow allows the iPhone maker to either pay back dividends, repurchase shares, or do both. Apple, of course, has done both for years. It spent $91 billion repurchasing stock over the last trailing 12 months and it paid out $15 billion in dividends over that same period.
Despite Apple’s aggressive capital return program for shareholders, the company still has $179 billion in cash and marketable securities. Further, even when you subtract the company’s debt from its cash, it still has a net cash position of $60 billion.
Put simply: Apple is a cash cow.
2. Strong demand
Apple’s strong revenue performance during a time of global macroeconomic uncertainty is also impressive. Revenue in the tech company‘s fiscal third quarter increased 2% year over year — and that’s on top of 36% top-line growth in the year-ago quarter.
However, this growth still understates the demand for Apple’s products. Sales were constrained by production in fiscal Q3. “Mac and iPad were so gated by supply that we didn’t have enough product to test the demand,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook in the company’s fiscal third-quarter earnings call. Cook even said that iPhone, the company’s largest segment, saw no evidence of weakened demand due to macroeconomic headwinds.
3. Significant growth potential
This final point is, perhaps, the most important. There is one area the company seems to have a lot of room to run: the monetization of its installed base of active devices. Apple management considers its installed base a key growth lever for the company going forward. “[Our installed base of active devices] is the engine for our company and it continues to grow,” explained Apple CFO Luca Maestri in the company’s most recent earnings call. He also noted that it has reached “an all-time high across every geographic segment, across every product category.”
The larger the installed base, the more users the company has the opportunity to monetize with native and third-party services. And Apple is doing just that. “Transacting accounts, paid accounts, paid subscriptions are growing, so the level of engagement continues to grow,” said Maestri.
This trend should help Apple’s services segment, which represents about a third of the company’s gross profit, continue posting double-digit year-over-year growth rates in most quarters for the foreseeable future.
So does Apple live up to its $2.8 trillion market capitalization? I think so. In fact, there’s likely a clear path to $3 trillion and beyond. And thanks to share repurchases, the share price could rise at a faster rate than Apple’s market cap.
Daniel Sparks has positions in Apple. His clients may own shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Apple. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.