BOSTON (TheStreet) -- The sudden announcement that Steve Jobs is stepping down as CEO of Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report is bruising shares of the consumer-technology giant, yet professional investors say the company is still one of the best investments.
After falling more than 5% after Jobs' announcement Wednesday after the market closed, Apple shares have pared losses to less than 2% today. Investors such as Channing Smith, who manages the
Capital Advisors Growth Fund
, say Apple is on course to release products that people want.
"From a valuation perspective, and what they have in front of them through year-end, investors should be very optimistic," Smith says. "The product pipeline is set and the roadmap is there for the next six to 12 months. It's a matter of the company executing, which new CEO Tim Cook has proven he can do."
Jobs submitted his resignation to the Apple board Wednesday. The board subsequently named Cook, previously the iPhone maker's chief operating officer, as its new CEO. Cook is not new to the game, as he has taken over for Jobs during three previous leaves of absence for medical reasons.
"We don't have any concern about the company messing up or there being some operational setback," Smith says. "As we go into the holiday season, Apple continues to have the most innovative products in the marketplace. We don't have the fierce competition we expected at this point in the cycle. Apple's setup is very attractive as we move into the holiday season."
The Capital Advisors Growth Fund had 5.4% of its $24 million in assets allocated to Apple as of June 30, making it the fund's largest position. Across the entire firm, Capital Advisors has more than $16.2 million of the $920 million in assets under management devoted to Apple, which includes the mutual fund and separately managed accounts.
"We're buyers," Smith says. "We look at the valuation of the stock, and it's trading at 11 times forward earnings, which is a discount to the S&P 500 Index. If you take out the cash, or roughly $80 per share, you're looking at only 8.5 times forward earnings."
Herb Chen, manager of the
Huntington Growth Fund
, also is bullish on Apple. Chen expects Apple's vision and product line to remain intact, and that Cook's previous role within Apple will benefit him and Apple to ensure quality products. "Buy over the next few days," Chen writes in an email.
As it stands now, Jobs will remain as chairman of the company. The hope is that he will still be involved in the strategic direction of the company, which gives investors comfort. The question for investors, though, is whether Apple shares are trading at a discount because Cook is at the helm, which has been widely expected for months, or whether Jobs' health is still a concern even if he's not in the CEO chair.
"One of the biggest overhangs has been, and will continue to be, Steve Jobs' health," Smith says. "At some point, investors will realize the company's enormous profit growth. But there will still be that overhang because of Jobs' health. It'll still be there for some time until Tim Cook and the management team prove they can innovate and come up with the products like Jobs."
So while investors argue that there is no better growth story than Apple, there is some question over when to buy more shares. Smith says Apple could be worth $500 to $600, from today's $369, as long as the company continues to perform. He says his firm wouldn't be sellers until Apple fails to meet expectations.
However, while Smith says he would take advantage of any pullback in the stock to take a position in Apple, "I would not go out and buy the stock today. There will be some confusion among people who don't know what they want to do."
Smith also notes the potential for extreme market volatility with
Chairman Ben Bernanke slated to speak at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Friday, where some market participants are betting Bernanke will unveil some type of asset purchase plan.
"You want to wait for clarity from Bernanke tomorrow. I think there is potential for a big disappointment," Smith says. "The market and Apple's stock will be volatile as we see continued concerns of economic growth. It's a great value where it is now and investors will be happy getting in today, but there will probably be opportunities in the next month to get it cheaper."
-- Written by Robert Holmes in Boston
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