With Apple reporting solid Q3 earnings and its stock surging by 5% today, bucking the overall market, the only question investors were left with was at what price with Apple become the world’s first $1 trillion company. The reason why this is a moving target is because starting in 2013, the company has been repurchasing millions of shares, shrinking the total number of shares outstanding with every quarter.
Moments ago, in its third quarter 10-Q filing, Apple provided the answer when it revealed an adjusted outstanding share count of 4,829,926,000, or converted into market cap, it means that AAPL will cross the $1,000,000,000,000 mark when its stock price rises above $207.05, or just under $6 dollars, from its Thursday closing price of $201.50. This also means that AAPL is virtually assured to cross the psychological level well ahead of runner up Amazon which also is rapidly closing in on the historic benchmark.
The chart below shows the amazing shrinkage of AAPL’s shares outstanding, which after peaking at 6.58 billion near the end of 2012, have since dropped 26% thanks to buybacks, and are now at a number last seen in January 2001.
Incidentally, Apple’s unprecedented slow-motion MBO has another key function: as Bloomberg’s David Wilson writes, the decline in share count is responsible for 42% of the stock’s gain from the end of 2013 through Tuesday, as shown in the chart. And, Wilson notes, “as Apple nears $1 trillion in value, a threshold no U.S. company has ever crossed, the gap may only get wider.”
To be sure, Apple is not alone: a study published by the National Employment Law Project and the Roosevelt Institute found that U.S. companies spent 60% of net income on repurchases, money that could have been used for pay increases, reinvesting in company growth or general R&D spending – between 2015 and 2017.
Then again, Apple shareholders – whose investment is about to cross the $1 trillion market cap line for the first time ever – are certainly delighted that instead of doing any of those things, AAPL focused on what it does best, at least in recent years: rest on its laurels, borrow the best technology created by its competitors, and use the billions in cash this generates every quarter to buy back its own stock.
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