Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

The market values Apple's earnings growth at $0.00

May 7, 2012: 8:04 AM ET

The only thing that seems to matter to Wall Street is how much cash it has in the bank

Click to enlarge. Source: Asymco.com

FORTUNE -- It's been a year since Asymco's Horace Dediu -- mystified by the apparent decoupling of Apple's (AAPL) share price from its earnings growth -- first spotted the correlation between the company's valuation and its holdings in cash and marketable securities.

"As far as the market is concerned," he wrote at the time, "Apple's future is irrelevant. Its value is defined as a constant multiple of cash."

Dediu took another look at that correlation Monday, and the result is the chart reproduced here.

As you can see, the stock rallied briefly this spring, but has since returned to the trend line that it's followed since 2008.

"ThisĀ correlation between cash and price is abnormal," Dediu writes. "It should not be happening. Share prices for growing companies should be tracking its future potential, not its assets. I'm only presenting this data to highlight this abnormality. There is no fundamental basis for this happening. In fact, there is a basis for this not happening."

Apple is a $530 billion company that grows like a start-up, but as Dediu demonstrated in a series of eye-opening charts Monday, the value of its shares have been compressed to the level of, say, a well-regulated utility.

Consolidated Edison (ED), for example, has a higher price-to-earnings ratio than Apple.

"Given this disconnect from the income statement," Dediu concludes, "the pricing by balance sheet multiple seems to be a symptom of something deeper. Reasons vary with the seasons, but the company is not perceived to have sustainable growth."

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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