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Apple and Amazon -- the Contrasts Couldn't Be More Stark

This year, Amazon is expected to make about 15 cents a share. Next year, when this does that, and that does this, and the other thing, analysts expect Amazon to earn about $1.82 per share. "Larry the Liquidator" likes round numbers, and so do I. For the sake of argument, and in honor of Bezos' use of "other people's money," let's say Amazon makes $2 per share next year.

Google is trading with a forward multiple of 14.6. If Amazon traded at 15, the price would be $30 a share. Keep in mind that Amazon has been a "startup" for a longer time than Google.

EBay is trading for a forward multiple of 18.1. For Amazon, that would be a price of $36.20 per share. EBay is especially interesting because so many merchants sell on both platforms. Amazon has its payment system, but so does eBay with PayPal. And, yes, Amazon is older than eBay too.

For Microsoft, we will use a forward multiple of 9, and I didn't bother plugging that one into the spreadsheet. Amazon would trade for $18. Wal-Mart has a PE of 14, bringing Amazon shares to $28, and finally we have Apple.

Apple's metrics are far superior in so many ways that to focus on a few key numbers doesn't do it justice, but the meaning comes across.

As a company, Apple has a market capitalization over five times larger than Amazon. Last year, Amazon made about $631 million in profit versus over $25 billion (with a "b") for Apple. For revenue, Apple collected over $108 billion compared with Amazon's $48 billion.

For liquidity, Amazon has about $2.8 billion versus Apple's war chest of well over $100 billion. Apple doesn't have to worry about Amazon entering deeper into its space, but Amazon should be frightened to death that Apple may move further into Amazon's offerings.

If Amazon sold for a multiple of Apple, Amazon would trade near $20.50 per share. You can say what you like about future profitability of Amazon, but the company has already reached the scale that increasing revenue by another double and then another double is highly debatable. Remember that Amazon's profit this year is expected to fall far short of a dollar. Next year $2 is expected, and if we push that to another double ($4) and a double after that, we have a total of $8 earnings per share.

With $8 earnings per share, Amazon should trade for about $96 if it's valued like Apple. A much smarter play is to continue with the greater fool theory if you want to own Amazon. Betting that some fool will come along and pay even more for Amazon worked great in the past year (mostly).

Dollar for dollar invested, Apple tastes much better.

Disclosure: The author does not hold a position in any stock mentioned.

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