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In Silicon Valley, there's a term for products that a company makes bold statements about and always seem on the cusp of launching but never quite materialize - vaporware.
And believe me, over the decades there have been more vaporware companies than real ones.
What's more, it's not uncommon for once-respected names to become vaporware makers over time.
One of the big questions now is, with the death of visionary Steve Jobs, the growing Android base, and the next generation in smartphones, is the "Next Big Thing" for Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) nothing more than vaporware?
For investors slammed by the stock's 39% decline from its 2012 high, the question is hardly rhetorical.
Today, I'm going to explore what's in store for the whales of the tech space and tell you where I stand on whether their visions will be actualized or vaporized.
Apple Stock May Not Climb, But Will Still Reward Investors
There was really only one good thing for Apple stock investors in yesterday's (Tuesday's) earnings report.
Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) announced an unprecedented share buyback program and boosted its dividend in attempts to pacify edgy investors who have watched the company's stock tumble about 34% over the past six months.
The iPhone maker will return $100 billion of cash to shareholders by 2015, through an increased dividend and $60 billion share buyback program. Apple's quarterly dividend was sweetened 15% to $3.05 a share. The stock now carries a juicy 3% yield. The new dividend is payable on May 16 to shareholders of record May 13.
With an annual payment of some $11 billion, Apple becomes the biggest dividend payer in corporate America, taking the crown from Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE: XOM).
Apple Stock Rises Before Earnings, but No One's Expecting Good Numbers
Apple stock was up nearly 2% by noon today (Tuesday) - but this could be the end of gains for a while depending on what happens this afternoon.
Undeniably the most anticipated earnings report of the season is the Apple earnings report, due out after the close Tuesday. Expectations are for a downright dismal quarter.
Among the issues Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is expected to address include:
- iPhones: Apple generated some $22.7 billion from the sale of 35 million iPhones in the same quarter a year ago. Investors will want to hear how much competition from other smartphone markers, like Samsung, has chipped away at those numbers.
- iPads: Apple sold 11.8 million iPads that generated $6.6 billion in sales over the same period a year earlier. With the bevy of new and cheaper tablets now on the market, it is unlikely Apple has been able to maintain those robust sales.
- Gross Margins: Gross margins peaked at an astounding 47.4% during this quarter last year. Apple's warning last October that margins could drop as low as 38% was the catalyst behind the stock's steep plunge. In January, Apple said profits should come in around 37.5% to 38.5%. These numbers are crucial.
- Revenue and Profit: Last year, Apple earned $12.30 a share on revenue of $39.2 billion. Estimates are for $10.12 a share on revenue of $42.6 billion. Even the slightest miss could wallop shares.
- Guidance: Most importantly will be what the company says about future quarters. Analysts expect Apple to guide lower, at least for the next couple of quarters.
Of particular interest will be what Apple plans to do with its hefty $157 billion cash stash. A special or increased dividend and a bigger share buyback could provide a temporary boost to the stock. But any gains are likely to be short lived.
"People have to be patient. The next quarter will be disastrous and the quarter after that stock will only go in one direction and that is down," Trip Chowdhry, co-founder of Global Equities Research told CNBC.
An Apple Stock Dividend Hike Could Help Set Cash Hoards Free
If Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) actually does what many now expect - raise the Apple stock dividend as much as 56% - it could help inspire a trend of givebacks by other cash-rich companies.
Looking at the company's cash hoard of $137 billion - which could reach $170 billion by year's end - a survey of analysts conducted by Bloomberg News this week concluded that an Apple stock dividend hike of $4.14 a share is a likely possibility.
That would raise the stock's yield from about 2.40% now to a much more attractive 3.6% -
higher than 84% of the other dividend-paying companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.
An increase in the Apple stock dividend would almost certainly boost the stock price, which is down about 35% from its Sept. 19 high of $702.10.
"The accumulation of cash has become excessive," Brian White, an analyst at New York-based Topeka Capital Markets Inc., told Bloomberg. "It doesn't matter which bearish scenario you forecast, they're never going to need this much cash."
What Should Apple Do with its $137 Billion Stockpile of Cash?
Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL) been in the news a lot of late as its stock plunged. Meanwhile, the company sits on a cash pile of $137 billion.
When Apple stock was soaring, investors were happy. But since its stock value plunged some 35% since September, many investors have suggested Apple should share some of itsaccumulated wealth. Fund manager and investor David Einhorn went so far as to sue the company to try to force it to share more of its cash with shareholders.
Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald was asked on FOX Business what Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) should do with its stockpile of money: Should the company pay dividends to shareholders, pursue major acquisitions or just keep its large cash position for future investments or other costs?
Check out what Fitz-Gerald and other panelists said on the FOX Business report in this accompanying video.
The Apple Stock Drop: What You Need to Know (Nasdaq: AAPL)
As Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) stock continues its seven-week tumble, investors want to know what is likely to happen next.
Since hitting an all-time high of $702.10 on Sept. 19, Apple stock plunged $155.04 --more than 22% to close at $547.06 on Friday.
Investors have gotten little help from Wall Street analysts, who have offered diametrically opposed opinions on where AAPL is headed.
Among the prominent bears is Doubleline Capital CEO Jeff Gundlach, who predicted on Thursday that Apple stock would continue all the way down to $425. He said that's about where AAPL was when it started its dramatic climb in January, and he expects it to return to those levels.
Gundlach is down on Apple because he thinks the Cupertino, CA-based company's new products are no longer cutting edge.
"I'm really struck by this mini iPad thing as if that's any kind of a product innovation," Gundlach told CNBC."Once you just start changing the size of your products, I really think you're not exactly innovating."
Meanwhile, some Apple bulls insisted the stock will not only bounce back, but eventually will reach beyond $1,000 a share.
Brian White, an analyst with Topeka Capital Markets, said in a note to clients on Thursday that he's keeping his $1,111 price target on AAPL.
"We believe that those investors that have missed the Apple rally over the past year are presented with a very attractive entry point heading into the strong holiday news season," White wrote.
So which story are Apple investors to believe?
To figure that out, let's take a closer look at what's been going on.
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