5 Reasons Apple Stock Is a Buy: Citigroup Analysts

Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) underperformance over the past month, with shares down roughly 2.2% as of Monday morning versus the S&P 500's 1.3% return over the 30-day-period, marks an opportunity to buy the stock at an attractive valuation, according to one team of bulls on the Street, reported CNBC.

Despite concerns over slowing demand, analysts at Citigroup expect Apple stock to reach $200 over 12 months, implying a 7.5% upside from Monday morning at $185.97. Analyst Jim Suva wrote a note highlighting at least five reasons why Apple shares are a buy at current levels, citing the smartphone maker's product lineup, growing services services and presence in international markets.  Suva expects demand to pick up during the "back to school/holiday quarter," while production cuts "typically precede new model launches in the fall." (See also: Apple May Pair Video Streaming With Magazines.)

Hot New iPhone Lineup 

First, while iPhone X demand expectations "have been tempered," Suva forecasts new products in the second half of 2018 spurring sustainable single-digit unit growth" as Apple differentiates with higher-end OLED-screen models. 

Citigroup wrote that an incremental $100 billion share repurchase plan will result in an approximate 12% share reduction over the next two years. That capital return could drive 10% earnings per share (EPS) accretion, wrote Suva, as reported by CNBC. 

The investment firm is particularly upbeat on Apple's focus on its services business, viewing Apple's goal to double services revenue from fiscal year 2016 to 2020 as "reasonable."

Apple's Expansion in Asia

Apple's paid subscriptions via platforms including "Apple Music, iCloud and other content including games, videos, magazines/newspapers, Apple Care+, etc. [...] is approaching close to 270 million," wrote Suva, who then that number to Apple's disclosed active installed base of 1.3 billion devices. 

The analyst highlighted enterprise as a continued growth driven for Apple in the midterm, pointing to a strengthened partnership with International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), as well as its expansion in India and emerging markets. 

Suva views Apple stock as trading at an attractive valuation compared to previous cycles, at around 0.9 times price to earnings (P/E) relative to the S&P 500, compared to a low of 0.6 times over the past four years and a high of 0.95 times. 

"Excluding their net cash per share which is about 20 percent of their current market cap, current relative multiples are hovering around ~0.8x. As Service revenues accelerate and total addressable market expansion in India and China returns to growth we could see some acceleration in relative PE multiples," added Suva. (See also: Apple Inks Multiyear Deal With Oprah.)

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