Is Apple Inc really worth $3 trillion 16 months after becoming the first company valued at $2 trillion?
The answer depends on how one views the iPhone maker's ability to keep up the unprecedented growth of the past 15 years. In its last fiscal year ended September 25, Apple delivered 33% revenue growth to $365.8 billion thanks to strong demand for 5G iPhone upgrades.
But that growth spurt came after a year of single-digit sales growth and a fiscal 2019 when Apple's sales declined.
The bull case for Apple is that it has built an ecosystem of 1 billion iPhone owners who spend money on services and that it is well-positioned for future categories like self-driving cars and augmented reality.
The deep discount investors once ascribed to Apple's stock because of its dependence on the iPhone for sales growth has disappeared as Apple has proved that the device sits at the center of an expanding solar system that adds new gadgets like the Apple Watch and Apple AirTags and new, paid services like television and fitness classes.
"Apple has been and still is an incredible growth story anchored by must-have products and a growing portfolio of services. While years ago the stock price was a value investor's dream, I don't think the current near-record high price should be a sell signal for long-term focused investors," said Trip Miller, managing partner at Gullane Capital Partners.
Moreover, Apple is trading at about 30 times its expected 12-month earnings, down a bit from a multiple of 32 in early 2021 but still at highs not seen since 2008, according to Refinitiv data. Hal Eddins, chief economist at Apple shareholder Capital Investment Counsel, said Apple has been a "safety stock" through the pandemic and that investors are likely expecting solid holiday sales.
Apple "seems to be vaccinated against anything that Omicron can throw at it," Eddins said. "I'm not complacent at this level, but there would have to be some nasty unforeseen events to rock the boat."
Some analysts believe Apple has plenty of room to grow in coming years, with future products such as the Apple Car.
"We see the prospects of Apple Car - representing the clearest path to doubling Apple's revenue and market cap - catalyzing a shift in investor narrative back toward the attractiveness of the platform (1 billion loyal customers) and long-term, sustainable growth," Morgan Stanley analyst Katy L. Huberty wrote in a November note.