Apple Earnings Preview: 15% Forward EPS/Revenue Growth Probably As Good As It Gets

Jan.24.14 | About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) reports their fiscal q1 14 financial results after the bell on Monday, January 27th, 2014. Analyst consensus is expecting $14.09 in earnings per share (EPS) on $57.46 billion in revenue for expected year-over-year (y/y) growth of 2% and 5% respectively.

Both the consensus EPS and revenue estimate have moved higher since the October '13 earnings report. As of this morning, January 24, 2014, full-year fiscal 2014 consensus for AAPL is expecting $43.88 in EPS on $185.4 billion in revenue for expected y/y growth of 10% EPS and 8% revenue growth. While just a small change, just after the October earnings report, the fiscal 2014 full-year growth rates were expecting 9% EPS and 7% revenue growth rates.

There is some upward drift in the EPS and revenue estimates for AAPL, buts as you can see analyst consensus is still not taking their estimates up very much, or at a very rapid rate, even with the news on China Mobile and Carl Icahn making use of every financial medium (CNBC, Twitter, etc.) to tout his share increases, for greenmail purposes.

And therein lies the rub: as we wrote about here and here, there are a whole universe of investors out there who seem to be waiting for AAPL to return to the halcyon days of 2010 - 2012, where the stock was generating outsized returns, while revenues and earnings were growing 50% per year.

Unfortunately, that growth is gone, and while ebooks and AppleTv are new opportunities, the markets aren't as large with the secular growth characteristics of smartphones, tablets and such.

That doesn't mean AAPL can't grow faster, it just means that if AAPL returns to a high single to low-double-digit EPS and EPS growth rate, or even a 15% annual rate, that would be fantastic, but I think that is as good as it gets.

The last two quarters, according to ThomsonReuters analyst detail consensus, the expected EPS and revenue growth rates are 10%, 10% and 8% for fiscal '14 through '16 for EPS and 8%, 7%, and 7% for revenue consensus and again, this is after the Icahn and China Mobile news.

In terms of valuation, trading at 13(x) and 11(x) 2014 and 2015 EPS for expected growth of 10% and 8%, means AAPL could trade up to 15(NYSE:X) - 18(x) forward estimates and still be reasonably valued.

Price to cash-flow ex-cash, AAPL is trading at 7(x) and then 10(x) free-cash-flow (ex the balance sheet hoard) so the stock is a true value stock with consumer-staple like growth rates.

Our internal earnings-based valuation model puts an intrinsic value on AAPL of $593 dollars per share, while Morningstar values AAPL near $600 in terms of its intrinsic value.

In a tough market so far in 2014, it is probably a good stock to own since AAPL has little downside, and with the way Icahn is touting his positions, you might get an "activist" bid under the stock.

2014 growth-rate expectations are very subdued for AAPL, so let's see how guidance looks Monday night.

The return of that cash hoard and some growth rate improvement might be the ticket for the tough market we are facing today. Unless estimates change though, and growth rates, a trade above $600 that gets too far above that price and we would be better sellers than buyers.

(In the interests of full and fair disclosure, AAPL was one of our worst sells in early 2013, when we sold about half our position (albeit it, at a gain) after the gap was taken out near $425 in early 2013. Not a good trade, but AAPL only returned 5% - 6% pre-dividend in a year where the SP 500 rose 32%.

Great company, value stock, slow growth. That is what AAPL means to us today. We have a 2.2% position in the stock in client accounts.

Historical vs. current growth rates of EPS and revenues:

Est actual
eps growth-act and est q1 '14 q4 '13
2016 - estimated 8% 3%
2015 - estimated 10% 10%
2014 - estimated 10% 9%
2013 - actual -10%
2012 - actual 60%
2011 - actual 83%
2010 - actual 67%
2009 - actual 34%
2008 - actual 73%
Revenue growth
2016 - revenues estimated 7% 6%
2015 revenues - estimated 7% 6%
2014 revenues - estimated 8% 7%
2013 revenues - actual 9%
2012 revenues - actual 44%
2011 revenues - actual 66%
2010 revenues - actual 52%
2009 revenues - actual 14%
2008 revenues - actual 56%
Click to enlarge

Disclosure: I am long AAPL. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.