Thursday, September 18, 2008

Apple Vs. Dell: Bad Markets and growth prospects

So Holy crap is the world ending or what?

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac,  Lehman Brothers, AIG, Bear Stearns.  All out of business.  Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Washington Mutual teeter on the brink.  

Does Wall Street think Apple is an investment bank?   (PS they have more cash)

Here is an interesting factoid.
YTD Dell and Apple stocks have performed identically (Down 30%), This is nearly meaningless but it makes a nearly meaningless point. (The irony is not lost on me)

Dell is the largest (sometimes second largest behind HP) manufacturer of personal computers in the world.  They are a formidable company that makes a lot of hardware.  But heres the thing.  They sell commodity boxes with a median price point between 6-700 bucks and despite a ridiculous 16.4 Billion in Sales last quarter made $746 Million   That sounds like a lot but here is the take home message.  Their margin is 17% and their Net per share 3.5%  

Apple on the other hand despite being only 4th and making a fraction of the unit and dollar sales of Dell maintained a margin literally DOUBLE 34.8% and net earnings more than 4x Dells. (14.3%).  Apple  Netted 1 billion dollars on 7.4 Billion in sales in the 2nd (their 3rd) quarter.  

Much of the price of a stock is the prospects for future earnings that investors believe the firm has  So what are the prospects of these two firms?  Maybe the sense is that people will buy a Dell instead of a Mac because of the impending foreclosure on the family home? After all Walmart's sales are up this year at the expense of more expensive retailers. Steve Jobs health (why do we say health when what we mean is death?) is a continuing issue, maybe investors are not convinced that the iPhone is the game changer we think it is?  

Dell has nowhere to go.  They are the price competitor the "low cost manufacturer" that can sell for less than you and still make money.  NO MORE.  Dell is not the low cost manufacturer as evidenced by the fact they are selling manufacturing facilities world wide.  So here is why that matters The price competitor has to be the low cost competitor or.... well you get the idea.  Dell's sales are growing at a pace with or slightly behind the industry as a whole.  Dell cannot and will not become a high margin competitor and by the very nature of the fact that they are at the commodity end of the business cannot grow faster than the industry.

Apple on the other hand is the innovator, they sell computers that sell for an average price of well over a thousand dollars.  In fact as recently as the second quarter Apple computers represented 66% of ALL computers sold for more than one thousand dollars.  The computer business represents about 45% of their total business and is growing at between 35-50% per year currently.  Their iPod business is flat but very profitable and the iphone business is growing exponentially (but will remain marginal for the next couple of quarters)

Now after having said all this if you had to buy ONE of these stocks which one do you think will have higher returns over the next 5 years?  One more Question... If you were the commodity manufacturer and were looking for a new market to grow into do you think you would want to build computers that could run the Mac OS? Like say Psystar

Author is long Apple, this is not advise but you really should call your mother.


Anonymous said...

May I suggest that you show these numbers using a "star/radar/spider" chart!!! This type of chart makes the visualization of comparison among multiple dimensions very clear>.

Here is a link that illustrates how such a chart looks like --

Also, you can draw this chart using Microsoft Excel or any other charting program.

Anonymous said...

Point well taken.

Unknown said...

The way you put it makes me glad that I owned Apple shares.