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Apple's stock has doubled in the last year. Here's why a longtime investor says it's not time to sell. (AAPL)

Published by Business Insider on Tue, 28 Jan 2020

Apple's stock has essentially doubled in the last year, giving it a price-to-earnings valuation at the high-end of its recent range.But that doesn't mean it's overpriced, said Dan Morgan, a senior portfolio manager with Synovus Trust.Apple's stock sold off in late 2018 and early 2019 after its sales plunged in China and overall, but its overall business has stabilized and certain businesses are showing strong growth.Plus, compared with those of other tech companies, Apple's valuation looks modest, Morgan said.Click here for more BI Prime stories.Dan Morgan realizes there are reasons for investors to be skeptical about Apple.The company's stock price has basically doubled in the last year. That's given it a price-to-earnings valuation that is now at the high end of the range it has been at over the past five years. And while investors are usually happy to pay a premium for fast-growing tech companies, Apple's business hasn't exactly been on fire."It would be very difficult to make a case that the stock is not stretched," Morgan, a senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust, told Business Insider in an interview on Monday.But don't expect Synovus to be selling off its Apple stake anytime soon."We've always been a big bull on Apple," Morgan said. "We still believe," he continued, "in the long-term fundamentals of the company."Investors and analysts will be reassessing Apple's value on Tuesday when it reports its latest quarterly earnings and potentially offers some guidance for its year ahead.Apple's shares have bounced back dramaticallyThe company's shares have rebounded dramatically over the last year. Apple's stock nose-dived in late 2018 and early 2019 amid reports of plunging sales in China and disappointing demand for its then-new iPhone XS and XR models. But after hitting in early January last year of $145.90 a share, the stock bounced back. Although it sold off on Monday, it closed at $308.95.Apple's shares are now trading at nearly 26 times its earnings from its last year. That's easily at the top of its recent range, Morgan noted.It's not like the company's financial health changed dramatically over that time period. In fact, Apple's revenue and earning fell on an annual basis in its most recent fiscal year, which ended in September. And many analysts don't expect the company's financial results to improve dramatically until at least this fall, when it is expected to release new iPhones that will support 5G, a new and faster standard for wireless data transmission.What has changed, though, is that after the initial sales drop-off, Apple's results didn't continue to get worse. Instead, Apple's business has more or less stabilized. While its iPhone sales continued to sag, Apple offered investors other reasons to be optimistic about its business. Its wearables businesswhich includes its Apple Watch and AirPods segmentsgrew by 41% in its most recent fiscal year and is now bigger than its iPad business and almost as big as its Mac computer business.Meanwhile, Apple's services segment, which includes everything from Apple Music and Apple TV to the money it receives from Google for promoting its search engine, has grown steadily into a $46 billion business."A year ago ... we'd be sitting around kicking Apple in the face, talking about how bad it is," Morgan said. "Now, all of a sudden," he continued, "the narrative has changed."Apple's valuation looks modest compared to that of AmazonLike many on the Street, Morgan is bullish about Apple's services and wearables businesses. But he's much more focused on the company's expected move to support 5G in its phones. For all the growth in the wearables business and other businesses, the iPhone still dominates Apple's overall operations, accounting for 55% of its revenue in its last fiscal year. Shoring up that business is going to be much more meaningful to the company's overall financial results than even doubling AirPod sales, he said."The iPhone is still the big kahuna," Morgan said.But Morgan is sanguine about Apple's valuation for another reason. Even though the company's stock now trades at a multiple of 26 times earnings, near the top of its recent valuation range, its price-earnings multiple is still well below those of its Big Tech peers, not to mention the broader tech industry. Google, Microsoft, and Facebook all trade at more than 30 times their earnings from their most recent twelve months. Meanwhile, both Amazon and Netflix trade at more than 80 times earnings.Apple's valuation "is not crazy for a tech stock," said Morgan.The real sanity check will come on Tuesday, when Apple delivers its quarterly report card.Got a tip about Apple or another tech company' Contact this reporter via email at twolverton@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @troywolv, or send him a secure message through Signal at 415.515.5594. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.Read more about Apple:Apple proved it could grow outside the smartphone in 2019, now the spotlight is back on the iPhone and Wall Street is looking for a show of forceThe new iPhone that Apple is expected to launch later this year will have faster 5G speeds than we initially thought, says one of the most accurate analystsThis analyst thinks that Apple's amazing year on the stock market of 85% growth is only the start of a three-year march towards a $2 trillion valuationApple's $24 billion wearables segment is now almost as big as its Mac businessSEE ALSO:The Saudi crown prince accused of hacking Jeff Bezos' phone met with more than a dozen tech execs and celebs during the same US trip. From Tim Cook to Oprah, here's everyone Mohammed bin Salman met with.Join the conversation about this storyNOW WATCH: A podiatrist explains heel spurs, the medical condition Trump said earned him a medical deferment from Vietnam
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