Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

At $385.10, Apple Inc. ex-cash has never been so cheap

April 19, 2013: 8:27 AM ET

Is there no limit to how much value Wall Street can take out of the stock?

Screen Shot 2013-04-19 at 9.53.38 AMFORTUNE -- In the fall of 2000, when you could buy Apple (AAPL) for $7, the stock's value measured by how much profit it was generating for each outstanding share -- the famous PE ratio -- hit an all-time low of 5.76, according to Wolfram Alpha (see chart below).

On Friday morning, when the stock touched $385.10, Apple's value hit a new low. With $137.1 billion in cash and marketable securities as of December, Apple's PE ratio ex-cash hit 5.42.

That's almost certainly a modern record for a company of this size, profitability and growth rate.

Apple's PE ratio is more likely to go up than down next Tuesday when it reports its March quarter earnings. Although the company will have increased its cash holdings in the past three months, it's also expected to report earnings that are lower than the same quarter last year, which will reduce the E in P/E and increase the ratio.

Whether the stock price -- the P in P/E -- goes up or down next week is anybody's guess.

For the record, the average PE ratio of the 500 stocks that make up the S&P 500 is 17.82.

UPDATE: For another point of view -- which to my mind speaks volumes about the disconnect between today's securities markets and their ostensible purpose  -- see the Wall Street Journal's Apple Shares Are Dirt Cheap; So What?

Below: The Wolfram Alpha chart.

Wolfram

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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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