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Apple, Little Understood, Is Best-Run Company

Stocks in this article: AAPL TEVA ATVI

Apple is hardly undiscovered yet not fully understood. Arguably the best-run company today, Apple has five segments in computing, consumer electronics, phones, software and retailing. Despite having excellent growth prospects, the company sells for a P/E multiple of 18, a cash flow multiple of 10, has $40 billion in cash and equivalents and no debt. Our view is that the recently announced iPad will sell well and that the next generation of phones will be a big boost to earnings.

Teva is just as dominant in generic pharmaceuticals and, given the dollar value of branded pharmaceuticals that are expected to lose patent protection, the company's growth prospects look as healthy as ever. The vertically integrated generic manufacturer will benefit irrespective of any health-care reform as it provides the lowest-cost alternatives to branded companies. The $50 billion company is expected to grow earnings 17% yet sells for 14 times 2010 estimated earnings.

What is your top "sleeper" stock pick?

Maronak: Given the underperformance against solid earnings, strong financials and attractive growth prospects, Activision (ATVI - Get Report) is a sleeper pick worth considering. We believe the company's attractive results have been overshadowed by general concerns of a slowdown in consumer spending in this gaming category as evidenced by Electronic Arts (ERTS) and GameStop (GME - Get Report). Activision, however, has a better title lineup, robust recurring monthly revenue from World of Warcraft and has just announced a stock-repurchase program.

What is your favorite sector?

Maronak: A favorite is always difficult for us to choose as we emphasize company fundamentals and see attractive opportunities in most sectors. That said, health-care represents a particularly interesting combination of growth and compelling valuation. Companies like Celgene (CELG - Get Report) and Teva Pharmaceuticals sell for less than 1 times their EPS growth rates of 24% and 17%, respectively. The lack of relative underperformance in 2009 was attributable to regulatory uncertainty and investor preference for investing in the worst-performing sectors. As fear from health-care reform initiatives subside and investors look for opportunities in sectors that have trailed in performance, health-care companies stand to attract renewed investor attention and funds.

Which sector or stock would you avoid?

Maronak: As much as we dislike generalizations, it's hard to ignore the challenges of telecommunications services. In many ways, the success Apple has enjoyed has come at the expense of AT&T (T - Get Report). Over the past three years, network traffic on AT&T's network has increased 50-fold yet revenue has increased only eight times. Worse yet, the most lucrative segment of revenue for carriers, text-messaging services, are being replaced by the least profitable, bandwidth-hogging data streams. Three percent of Apple iPhone users represent 40% of AT&T's traffic. With smart phones growing at 30% per year and application downloads in the billions, the problems will only become more acute, forcing carriers to spend billions upon billions on capital expenditures.

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