Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has the potential to be the first company ever to reach $1 trillion in market capitalization.
And I believe it will in a relatively short order – but it won't be easy.
Apple took the most valuable company crown from Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) in January after stunning December quarter results sent the stock soaring. Yesterday (Wednesday), AAPL's market cap crossed $500 billion.
As Apple's valuation has climbed, fueled by a five-year average annual growth rate of 59%, more people have started throwing the t-word around – as in trillion.
"Apple's a no-brainer to me to hit a $1 trillion-dollar market cap within the next year," James Altucher, managing director of Formula Capital, said on CNBC's "Fast Money" recently.
The record for market cap is just over $650 billion, achieved briefly by Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) at the peak of the dotcom bubble in early 2000.
Only a handful of companies have made it to the $500 billion club, and membership has been fleeting.
The list includes Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) – all during the 1999-2000 market peak. The last company to breach the $500 billion mark was Exxon Mobil in 1997.
One factor in Apple's favor is that it has risen to its current lofty levels not riding a bubble but despite a recession. And the markets for its existing products, such as the iPhone, the iPad and the Mac, still have room to grow.
"The reason Apple has been able to continue growing at a spectacular rate, even as its revenue base has surpassed $100 billion, is because it targets the world's biggest markets," Robert Cihra, an analyst at Evercore Partners, told The New York Times. "The simple fact is that they still have a small share of huge markets – single-digit shares in both PCs and mobile phones."
Naturally, getting to $1,000 a share and a $1 trillion market cap will require the addition of new sources of revenue, as well as sustaining growth in existing markets.
However, Apple already has head start with at least three cutting edge innovations…