Apple becomes first $1tn publicly listed US firm

Apple Inc became the first $1tn publicly listed US company yesterday, crowning a decade-long rise fuelled by its ubiquitous iPhone that transformed it from a niche player in personal computers into a global powerhouse spanning entertainment and communications. The tech company’s stock jumped 2.8% to as high as $207.05, bringing its gain to about 9% since Tuesday when its reported June-quarter results above expectations and said it bought back $20bn of its own shares. Started in the garage of co-founder Steve Jobs in 1976, Apple has pushed its revenue beyond the economic outputs of Portugal, New Zealand and other countries.

Along the way, it has changed how consumers connect with one another and how businesses conduct daily commerce. Apple’s stock market value is greater than the combined capitalisation of Exxon Mobil, Procter & Gamble and AT&T. It now accounts for 4% of the S&P 500. The Silicon Valley stalwart’s stock has surged more than 50,000% since its 1980 initial public offering, dwarfing the S&P 500’s approximately 2,000-percent increase during the same almost four decades. One of three founders, Jobs was driven out of Apple in the mid-1980s, only to return a decade later and rescue the computer company from near bankruptcy.

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Started in the garage of co-founder Steve Jobs in 1976, Apple has pushed its revenue beyond the economic outputs of Portugal, New Zealand and other countries.

He launched the iPhone in 2007, dropping “Computer” from Apple’s name and super-charging the cellphone industry, catching Microsoft Corp, Intel Corp, Samsung Electronics and Nokia off guard.That put Apple on a path to overtake Exxon Mobil in 2011 as the largest US company by market value. During that time, Apple evolved from selling Mac personal computers to becoming an architect of the mobile revolution with a cult-like following. Jobs, who died in 2011, was succeeded as chief executive by Tim Cook, who has doubled the company’s profits but struggled to develop a new product to replicate the society-altering success of the iPhone, which has seen sales taper off in recent years.

In 2006, the year before the iPhone launch, Apple generated less than $20bn in sales and net profit just shy of $2bn. By last year, its sales had grown more than 11-fold to $229bn — the fourth highest in the S&P 500 — and net income had mushroomed at twice that rate to $48.4bn, making it the most profitable publicly-listed US company. The stock was last up 2.4% at $206.41, a hair below $1tn. Jeff Carbone, co-founder of Cornerstone Financial Partners in Charlotte, North Carolina, has included Apple in his clients’ portfolios for about a decade. Recently, some of his older clients have bought Apple shares for their grandchildren.

“We still see upside from it, and as new money gets deposited we continue to buy, preferably on the dip,” Carbone said. Apple’s stock has risen over 30% in the past year, fuelled by optimism about the iPhone X, launched a decade after the original. Also propelling Apple higher in recent months was Apple’s announcement that it earmarked $100bn for a new share repurchase programme. In its report on Tuesday, Apple sales led by the iPhone X, which sells for about $1,000, pushed quarterly results far beyond Wall Street targets, with subscriptions from App Store, Apple Music and iCloud services bolstering business.

Even with its $1,000,000,000,000 stock market value, many analysts do not view Apple’s shares as expensive. Shares of Apple this week traded at about 15 times expected earnings, compared to Amazon at 82 times earnings and Microsoft at 25 times earnings. Adjusting for four stock splits over the years, Apple debuted on the stock market for the equivalent of 39 cents a share on Dec. 12, 1980, compared to yesterday’s high of $207.05. In 2015, Apple joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average, one of capitalism’s most exclusive clubs. Since 1980, IBM, Exxon Mobil, General Electric and Microsoft have also alternated as the largest publicly listed US company.

In 2007, Chinese government-controlled PetroChina briefly reached a stock market value of about $1.1tn following its public listing in Shanghai. It is now worth about $200bn, according to Thomson Reuters data. One of five US companies since the 1980s to take a turn as Wall Street’s largest company by market capitalisation, Apple could lose its lead to the likes of Alphabet Inc or Amazon.com Inc if it does not find a major new product or service as global demand for smartphones loses steam. Hot on Apple’s heels is Amazon.com, the second-largest listed US company by market value, at around $880bn, closely followed by Google-owner Alphabet and by Microsoft.

Sources and photo-credits: Reuters, Gulf Times