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Counterpoint: Can Apple retain the crown?

Posted: 27 Nov 2009     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Apple market  consumer electronics  software 

Despite what most believe, Apple Inc. is not unstoppable. In fact, the momentum for halting the iPhone maker's dominance of the consumer electronics market is building up. Eventually in the near future, rivals will chip away at its leadership until no single player ever gets again to rule the sector.

Yes, Apple is the wunderkind of the high-tech world, the one whose enchanted hand turns everything it touches into hot sales and even bigger profits generator. Even a Golden King can have feet of clay, though, and Apple is no exception as its history has shown.

Few people want to bet against Apple today. Analysts are straining to put out new 52-week price target for the company's stock price believing it cannot do anything wrong. The company's stock price has already risen about 167 per cent in only the last one year to a high of Rs.10,188.27 ($208.71) from a low of Rs. 3817.37 ($78.20), yet some analysts' 12-month price target for Apple is a stratospheric Rs. 13,668.32 ($280).

It's time for everyone to take the blinders off. Apple's is a great success story, but like other companies that in the past rode the crest of a great growth wave to investors' delight, the momentum may be changing even for this high achiever. It's not too early to sound the alarm even though I believe Apple is likely to keep growing at a hot pace for a short while longer before peaking and possibly declining.

Some signs of a slowdown are already evident. The company's sales growth eased to a mere 12.5 per cent in the fiscal year ended Sept. 26, 2009 compared with 35 per cent and 24 per cent in the two previous years, consecutively. Sure, the global economy was also declining and Apple was one of only a few companies to experience y-on-y growth but the company's products once looked like they could forever defy gravity.

With Apple now offering its iPhones to consumers in China and other parts of Asia as well as subscribers in more European countries, including Germany, the company would likely experience higher sales growth in subsequent quarters. However, there are other forces at play that will eventually crimp sales at Apple.

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