Updated from 11:43 a.m. EST to provide more analysis from Goldman Sachs analyst in the sixth and seventh paragraphs.
NEW YORK (
has surpassed investors' wildest expectations, and with the announcement of a dividend and a share buyback earlier this week, shares are more attractive than before, according to investment managers.
Investors had been urging Apple to return some of its cash to shareholders, and with the
that it will pay a dividend and buy back $10 billion in stock, investment managers see plenty to like.
Even though Apple shares have gained 46.5% year-to-date and 79.5% over the past twelve months, Daniel Morris, portfolio manager of the
Manor Growth Fund
says shares are still "attractively valued at these levels."
"We think it's a good move, and appropriate. We look at this as fairly conservative, and they could raise the dividend in the next few years. If I was not a holder, I'd be a buyer here," Morris said over the phone. Morris has owned Apple since 2006 for his clients, and due to position limits, he cannot add anymore Apple.
The dividend announcement caused several analysts to boost their Apple
"In addition, on the conference call this morning, we believe Apple's management appeared very willing to consider steady increases in the dividend and share repurchase rate over time," Goldman Sachs' Bill Shope wrote.
Shope raised his earnings estimates for 2013 and 2014. He now sees Apple earning $50.57 per share in fiscal year 2013, up from $50.29, and $57.90 per share in 2014, up from $57.14. He left his fiscal year 2012 earnings per share estimate of $42.52 unchanged. He raised his price target to $700, and reiterated his Conviction-Buy List rating.
Despite the 1.7% dividend yield as of yesterday's close, Oliver Pursche, President of
Gary Goldberg Financial Services
and manager of the
GMG Defensive Beta Fund
, said in the short-term, the return of cash is definitely a positive, but not a big thing in the grand scheme of things.
"We don't think Apple paying a dividend is going to materially change the stock in the long run. Apple will continue to be driven by product innovation and sales," he said, in an interview. "They have little in recurring revenue, so new sales is critical, and that's driven by product innovation."
Apple said it would spend $10 billion on a share repurchase program and initiate a quarterly dividend of $2.65 per share. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company said it expects to spend $45 billion on the dividend and repurchase program over the next three years.
For long-term investors, Manor Growth's Morris believes Apple is still attractively valued, and the $45 billion figure "builds in the fact Apple could raise the dividend over the next few years and still keep within the $45 billion figure."
Channing Smith, portfolio manager of Capital Advisors Growth Fund, believes the dividend could grow over time, and there's also a chance of additional buybacks.
"When you look historically at what tech companies have done, this is a very attractive yield," Smith said over the phone. Smith owns shares of Apple, but recently cut his position due to the run-up in shares. He put some of the money into
Apple is firing on all cylinders, winning the consumer space, hands down, according to Capital Advisors' Smith. "Product innovation continues, the price points are coming down on older products, and there is a surprising lack of competition in the space," he noted.
Smith believes that, even though Apple has blown the door off earnings over the past couple of years, shares might be ripe for a pullback, given the recent run-up. "If you see a pullback, we would be telling investors to add to positions, as the story still has legs."
Gary Goldberg's Pursche notes that, although the dividend is nice, Apple's driver will continue to be product innovation and sales. "It's a freight train on rails right now, and it's moving," he said.
Many investment managers believe that Apple is likely to continue generating significant amounts of cash, and the $45 billion returned over the next few years will not hamper innovation, or stretch Apple's purse strings, as CEO Tim Cook noted on the conference call yesterday.
Not only does Apple "think different" about its' products, it does so about its cash hoard as well. That is music to shareholders' ears. Even if they have to download it from iTunes first.
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Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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