The Biggest Risk Apple (AAPL) Faces

By Oct 17, 2012, 11:56 AM Author's Blog  

Morgan Stanley (MS) did a write up on Apple. Not surprisingly, the firm likes Apple (AAPL). The deep thinkers at MS reckon the stock is going to be at $720 a year from today, up 11% from yesterday’s close.

The Biggest Risk Apple (AAPL) Faces

I wonder what MS would have said if they had published this report three weeks ago when AAPL was at $703. Would it have set a $720 price target back then? I wouldn’t think so.

MS covers its ass with a range of outcomes over the next year. The upside surprise for AAPL might be as high as $960, while the downside could take the stock back to $405. One could drive a truck through this range (and lose a fair bit of money in the process).

The Biggest Risk Apple (AAPL) Faces

When it comes to matters of finance, I tend to dwell on the dark side, so skipped the upside story presented by MS and went straight to what it thinks the risks are that could trip up the stock. The things that keep MS awake at night:

The Biggest Risk Apple (AAPL) Faces

I was comforted to see this list. I don’t see all that much downside based on these factors. But there is something glaringly missing. What about Apple’s risk of supply interruption? That risk is not even mentioned. It’s the biggest risk the company faces.

If the Corporate Finance team at MS were doing an analysis (Vs. sell-side analysts) of an acquisition candidate that had big imports from China, it would never have excluded the supply risk aspect. If they did exclude it, they would be fired on the spot.

When real money is involved, you don’t avoid the big risks, you highlight them. When you are writing about your favorite, stock you avoid describing risks. After all, no one on Wall Street wants to say anything bad about America’s most favorite stock.

Possibly MS left out the big risk factor because it is damn near impossible to quantify the risk. But that doesn’t make the risk go away. The fact is that Apple’s supply of products is not 100% safe. The company is over dependent on Foxconn, and Foxconn is heavily dependent on its factories in China.

I’m not forecasting a problem in China that results in shutdowns of Foxconn factories. I am saying that Morgan Stanley ignored the biggest risk the company and its shareholders face. That’s something that should not have happened. I think MS fluffed the risk factors for Apple. How could it have missed the obvious?

The Biggest Risk Apple (AAPL) Faces

The Biggest Risk Apple (AAPL) Faces

The Biggest Risk Apple (AAPL) Faces

The Biggest Risk Apple (AAPL) Faces

The Biggest Risk Apple (AAPL) Faces

The Biggest Risk Apple (AAPL) Faces

The Biggest Risk Apple (AAPL) Faces

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