Apple (AAPL - Get Report) shares remain a good choice for your stock portfolio. Even though they sold off beginning late last year, they've recovered a good portion of those losses and are now up 4.2% year to date.
There's been a lot of news about this company lately. The tech giant got into a high-profile dispute with the U.S. Justice Department, it was revealed that famous investor Carl Icahn dumped 7 million shares of Apple stock, and the company went on a $12 billion borrowing spree. Some investors may be viewing these headlines negatively, it's worth reviewing them.
First, let's look at the dispute with the federal government. Apple CEO Tim Cook rejected an order to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by on of the attackers in the San Bernardino shooting last December. Although security advocates argue that law enforcement should be able to unlock mobile phones if needed, Apple has contended that it must protect the privacy of its customers.
Apple has said in past cases that failing to protect customer privacy could hurt its bottom line. "Forcing Apple to extract data in this case, absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customer and substantially tarnish the Apple brand," said company lawyers in October, according to The Globe and Mail. Interestingly, the matter seems to have been resolved for now after the FBI revealed that it has found a way to break into the phone and that it no longer needs Apple's help.
Apple is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. See how Cramer rates the stock here. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells AAPL? Learn more now.
Elsewhere, it appears some hedge funds have been pitching their tents with the bears when it comes to Apple. In February, hedge fund guru Carl Icahn disclosed that he had sold 7 million Apple shares in the fourth quarter of 2015. At the stock's current price, that's a total value of about $765 million.
Some argue that Icahn lost his trust in Apple. It's the first time he sold Apple stocks since he invested in 2014. He still owns more than $4.4 billion worth of Apple, so he sold only about 13% of his total stake. Moreover, the reason for his move was probably not Apple itself, but probably more about Icahn's need to raise some cash. His company, Icahn Enterprises (IEP - Get Report) is down 32% over the past year.
Icahn is not the only hedge fund that is reshuffling positions. Greenlight Capital, which is run by billionaire David Einhorn, also cut its stake by Apple by 46%. It's still too soon to tell whether this means Einhorn has become more bearish on Apple or whether he's just trying to raise cash after his main fund lost 20% in 2015.
Nonetheless, Tiger Global showed its belief in Apple's prospects by buying a massive $1.1 billion dollar stake in Apple. Hence, the hedge funds industry has not at all lost its interest in Apple. Those who disinvest still keep significant stakes while other funds see their chance and invest in Apple shares.
The third bit of recent news concerns Apple's borrowing of $12 billion. That has led to some confusion among investors, because Apple has a reserve of cash and securities of about $215 billion. Why would a company that has such a large cushion take on debt that it has to repay with interest?
But this MarketWatch article sets things straight. First, much of its reserves are placed in long-term marketable securities, which Apple intends to allow to earn interest. But the bigger issue is that much of Apple's cash and securities -- 93% -- are held overseas, and repatriating that money to the U.S. would incur a hefty tax bill. Within that context, Apple's recent bond offering makes sense.
Additionally, interest rates are at historical lows, so it's likely that Apple will be able to earn a greater return than its borrowing costs. Hence, there is no reason for investors to worry about Apple's $12 billion in borrowing.
Apple also faced some headwinds after its iPhone sales flat-lined in the fourth quarter of last year, reflecting slower growth in Asia. That worries some investors, as iPhone sales account for about 60% of Apple's revenue. "Apple is a one-product company," declared analysts at Berenberg, which has a sell rating on the stock. These growth concerns weigh on Apple's stock price.
Nevertheless, Apple reported record sales in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, with $75.9 billion in revenue, $18.4 billion in profit, 74.8 million iPhones sold, 16.1 million iPads sold, and 5.3 million Macs sold.
Although Apple bears might be right when they worry about iPhone sales, they should consider the company's latest product initiatives. Apple has just recently launched its music streaming service, Apple Music. Although this service has initially been criticized, it's now stealing Spotify's show. According to MIDiA Research, Apple Music could become the leading music streaming service in 2017.
Additionally, Apple is venturing into the virtual reality space, which could turn out to be the next big hit. Having that said, the company is moving away from being entirely depending on iPhone sales and has a lot more to offer.
Furthermore, companies such as Netflix or Amazon carry price-to-earnings ratios of more than 350. Apple, on the other hand, has a P/E of 12. Considering that the stock is not as outrageous expensive as other tech stocks while it still offers amazing growth prospects, it's well worth buying.
Amazon is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. See how Cramer rates the stock here. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells AMZN? Learn more now.