Analyst sees China's growing middle class as the underappreciated driver of future growth.
Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty, whose Apple (AAPL) forecasts have turned increasingly bullish in the past year (see Morgan Stanley drinks the Apple Kool-Aid), has issued her most optimistic report to date.
In her "bull case" scenario, Apple ships 80 million iPhones and 40 million iPads in calendar 2011, driving its stock to $500 a share by next August.
Apple closed Wednesday at $312.80, up $3.44 (1.11%) for the day.
The key to Apple's future growth, according to Huberty: 50 million Chinese, many of them urban, college-educated baby boomers from single-child homes with access to their parents' savings, good pension plans and a taste for "aspirational brands" like iPhones, iPods and iPads.
Apple, Huberty writes, is on a trajectory in China similar to BMW (BMW.HM), an aspirational car for a developing country if there ever was one.
"Despite the lack of financing and overall lower average income," she writes, "China will account for 11% of BMW revenue and 17% of OpInc this year, according to our European auto analyst Stuart Pearson, due to a 4x increase in dealers over the past five years."
Among the signs that Apple is making similar investments in distribution and could be headed for a similar trajectory, she cites:
|4 federal agencies to shut Friday|
|Wall Street braces for China and Fed fallout|
|Japan plunge spooks global markets|
|Shazam overhauls iPad app as music market heats up|
|Bitcoin more powerful than fastest supercomputers|