In his letter to Apple today, Carl lists a litany of reasons why Apple’s stock is undervalued and how to get it up closer to what he thinks is fair value right now. I’d like to welcome Carl Icahn, once again, to the “Apple’s undervalued” camp. But I think he’s missing the main reason that Apple isn’t at $200 right now — and that is because it is and always now will be, Steve Job-less.
I’ve proudly owned Apple since it was trading for less than the cash on its balance sheet, back $1 per share back in March 2003, in large part because I thought that with Steve Jobs having returned as CEO that Apple was poised to become a great Revolution Investment.
One of Steve’s greatest attributes was that he was willing to take huge risks and develop crazy new products (like an MP3 player with a scroll wheel on it or a tablet computer called iPad) and platforms (like iTunes or iOS). The biggest (only?) risk that Tim Cook’s had Apple undertake — the upcoming Apple Watch. If Steve Jobs were running Apple today, the Apple Watch would definitely have been called iWatch (remember how Apple had to pay up to buy the iPhone name from Cisco?). And the Apple iWatch would have been out last year or the year before.
If Steve Jobs were alive today, I bet the iPhone wouldn’t have changed the size of its screen as Steve Jobs famously thought he’d found the perfect size for the iPhone screen. Rather we’d now be closer to a credit card thin iPhone running an iOS that would already include live widgets. Steve Jobs would have been pushing innovation in the iOS rather than playing catch up with Android as Tim Cook has done.
Finally, if Steve Jobs were alive today, I don’t think that Apple would be paying a dividend. And ask Warren Buffett about trying to advise Steve Jobs to buy back Apple stock. Rather, Steve loved his cash hoard. Scutify Factoid of the day for you: Apple had never paid a dividend or bought back any shares, it would likely have another $130 billion in net cash on its balance sheet — or more than $40 per share, or twice its current cash balance under Tim Cook.
Clearly, nobody knows exactly what left-turns and changes and other products and ideas the late, great Steve Jobs would be working on right now. But having owned the stock throughout the greatest run in its history, from March 2003 to October 2011 when he passed, I remember a lot of lessons and insights that Steve Jobs provided us over the years. In the 2006 interview below, I was totally channeling my inner (wannabe) Steve Jobs.
As for Carl Icahn’s $203 price target? Here’s an article from back in 2010 called when $AAPL was at $35 called “How Apple could get to $1500 by 2015“. That $1500 price target is actually a $214 price target (factoring in the 7-to-1 stock split since then). Icahn’s late! LOL
Apple is cheap by many metrics, that’s for sure. At a similar multiple to, say, $GOOG, $AAPL would over $200. And if Steve Jobs were still running Apple and the company had $40 per share in net cash plus the higher sales from more innovative product roll outs over the last few years that I just outlined, the stock would probably be over $200 a share. So call it the Tim Cook discount and tell Carl Icahn all of us Apple shareholders, even us long-termers, feel his frustration. But I’d also bet that Carl Icahn would be activist-ing on Apple if Steve Jobs still ran Apple.
As I told Sony’s Doug Morris when I met him a few weeks ago and we talked about technology – I’ve been riding the Apple train for more than a decade. And as he said back to me, “That’s a great train to have been on.” It still is, even with the Tim Cook discount. Stick with Apple.