Updated from 9:21 a.m. to add more detail about new products in the eighth and ninth paragraphs.
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If there was ever a time to own Apple (AAPL) shares, now is the time before the big boys get in. It's all about the back half of 2014 for Apple, a time that's increasingly looking like when Silicon Valley's largest company will make the mother of all product launches.
Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty (she who gets to ask the first question on Apple's earnings calls), noted that the top 100 shareholders of Apple are "significantly underweight as compared to an overweight bias for every other large cap technology stock in our analysis."
Given that Apple has surpassed the $600 level on exceptionally strong fiscal second-quarter results, and an increase in shareholder friendly moves, such as increasing the dividend, a buyback and the upcoming 7-for-1 stock split, Huberty said she believes this bodes well for the stock. The company is getting set to launch product refreshes later this year, as well new products, including the iWatch, and new services, including mobile payments, something CEO Timothy D. Cook has touched on publicly before.
"The mobile payments area in general is one that we've been intrigued with, and that was one of the thoughts behind Touch ID," Cook said on Apple's fiscal first-quarter earnings call. "But we're not limiting ourselves just to that. So I don't have anything specific to announce today, but you can tell by looking at the demographics of our customers and the amount of commerce that goes through iOS devices vs. the competition that it's a big opportunity on the platform."
Huberty noted that as a percentage of their total portfolios, the top 100 shareholders' allocation to Apple fell 20 basis points sequentially from the fourth quarter of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014 to just 2%. That's at the low end of the range, which has been 1.6% to 4.5% of portfolios, and Apple is the only large-cap tech company below the S&P 500 weighting of 3.2%.
Apple is largely held by retail investors, as the top 100 holders (read institutional investors, the guys with the big bucks) only own 43.4% of the total float, way down from the historical average of 50.8%, and 53.2% for other large-cap tech names like Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT) and others.
In fact, the average size of the top 100 funds that own Apple is $113 billion, which is right around the $115 billion that owns Google so it's not a question of purchasing power for shareholders, it's a matter of allocation, something Huberty believes is bound to pick up as Apple gets its mojo back toward the latter half of 2014.
Speculation has been that in addition to the iWatch and a potential mobile payments service, Apple will launch a new iPhone, dubbed by some to be called the iPhone Air (coming in two sizes), as well as updated Macs, iPads, and others. The next iPhone is expected to come in two sizes, a 4.7-inch and a 5.5-inch version, and could allow for Apple to command a higher price, given Apple's position at the high-end of the smartphone market.
Huberty addressed this situation on Apple's fiscal second-quarter earnings call with Cook. "We price things that we think - are priced in such a way that we think it's a fair price for the value that we're delivering and we make those on each thing as it gets closer time to come to market," Cook said on the call.
In the past few months, there's been a rotation of money from high-momentum, hyper-growth tech stocks like Workday (WDAY), Salesforce.com (CRM), FireEye (FEYE) and others, into companies such as HP (HPQ) and Microsoft, a fact that Huberty noted benefited HP and Microsoft, which "saw portfolio allocation levels tick up 10 basis points from Q4 to Q1. "We note that despite the increase, HP remains at the low end of the historical portfolio allocation range. Amazon and Facebook saw portfolio weight decline 30bps and 60bps, respectively."
In a nutshell, Huberty is saying the money went out of high-growth names, and while HP and Microsoft benefited somewhat, there's still a lot of money out there for other tech names, including one kind of important company based in Cupertino, Calif.
--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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