Two things are changing in the “Apple story,” according to Munster, formerly a well-known Apple analyst on Wall Street and now a venture investor.
First, Apple’s iPhone sales are now relatively steady, which should reduce quarter-to-quarter anxiety, Munster said. Second, Munster said, Apple’s strong cash position could signal more buybacks for loyal investors.
“The big picture here is, we’re essentially one week into a new type of thinking around the Apple story,” said Munster, now a managing partner at venture capital firm Loup Ventures.
Munster’s comments come after a big week for Apple investors. The company reported better-than-feared earnings and a $100 billion buyback last week, and that news was quickly followed by an announcement that Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought 75 million shares in the first quarter.
Apple’s shares have bounced over the past week, despite prior trepidation around slowing iPhone sales.
“Two things are changing about the Apple story, and we could be in front of a significant move higher in the stock. We’re entering a phase of more visibility around the iPhone,” said Munster. “There’s always going to be some level of anxiety, but not the stress [investors] have had in the past.”
Apple has indeed diversified away from its hit-driven phone business: iPhones are now 62 percent of net sales, down from 67 percent a year ago, as the company’s services division has built on steady sales of Macs and iPads.
But it’s Apple’s cash return to shareholders — not iPhones or other products — that has some analysts celebrating.
“Apple has found a narrative revolving around capital allocation,” independent analyst Neil Cybart wrote before the earnings report. “Instead of iPhone sales or Apple Services revenue gaining importance, Apple’s balance sheet strategy is driving the company’s new Wall Street narrative,” said Cybart, who has a blog called Above Avalon.
And while Buffett is interested in the iPhone, he also looks for American companies with long-term management vision, clear profit trends and steady success.
That’s not always smiled upon in the technology sector, though, where Buffett rarely invests. Entrepreneurship author Steve Blank, for instance, has criticized Apple’s management for prioritizing business-model-execution above innovation.
While Apple’s model may not be the “growth-at-all-costs” philosophy that’s common in Silicon Valley, Munster said he wouldn’t count Apple out.
“I’ve observed the Apple story for a long time, and I think we’re entering a period where this is as big of an event as the iPhone was, for totally different reasons,” said Munster.