Why Buy Apple Stock When Alphabet Is So Much More Attractive?

Wayne Duggan

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) are two of the four largest U.S. companies by market cap. Apple stock has taken a much larger hit than GOOGL stock during the May trade-war sell-off. However, long-term investors looking to buy the Apple dip should consider taking a close look at GOOGL stock first.

Apple stock aapl stock

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At first glance, there are several reasons why an investor looking to buy the dip might choose Apple stock. AAPL is down 11% in May compared to only a 1.8% pullback from Google. However, year-to-date, Apple is still up 18% overall compared to only a 10% gain from Alphabet stock. In fact, Alphabet stock price has actually lagged the S&P 500 so far in 2019.

Still, from a pure valuation perspective, Apple looks like the better buy. Apple’s forward earnings multiple is a relatively low 14.3 compared to Alphabet’s 21.3. In fact, Apple has a lower forward earnings multiple than Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) or Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) as well.

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Finally, Apple stock has one of the most pristine balance sheets on Wall Street. In addition to its cash pile of $225 billion, the company is committed to putting the cash to use. AAPL stock pays a 1.6% dividend.

The company just authorized an additional $75 billion in buybacks. Management has also said it is committed to becoming “net cash neutral” over time. At the same time, GOOGL stock has no dividend and has only $12.5 committed to repurchases under its current buyback program.

Apple Is Shrinking, Alphabet Is Growing

While Apple seems like a better value based on today’s numbers, investing is about the future. In the most recent quarter, Apple’s revenue was down 4.5% and net income was down 0.5% compared to a year ago. Alphabet, meanwhile, reported 17% revenue growth in the first quarter. Excluding a one-time fine by the European Commission, operating income was up 26% to $8.31 billion.

Google stock was punished following its Q1 report because revenue growth was its slowest in three years, and its expenses continue to rise. Investors certainly shouldn’t ignore those potential issues, as well as the possibility for additional regulation. But they should also not miss the forest for the trees.

Apple bulls say the company will overcome an increasingly saturated smartphone market and return to growth in time. The plan is to shrink the iPhone refresh period and improving monetization of its existing customers. However, Google is already growing at a double-digit pace. More importantly, it does not derive the majority of its revenue from selling devices in a saturated market.

Former Kase Capital Management hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson says he disagrees with his investing idol Warren Buffett when it comes to Apple versus Google.

“My money – unlike my investing hero, Warren Buffett – is on Alphabet significantly outperforming Apple in the long run because it has a better business model, is growing much faster, and is likely to continue doing so,” Tilson says.

Alphabet Stock Is Safer Than Apple Stock

Tech investors should consider why they like tech in the first place before buying the May dip. Apple is a great company. Apple is a safe, solid long-term investment. But tech investors aren’t typically looking for a blue chip company with a nice dividend yield and relatively stable earnings. That’s why investors don’t typically lump Microsoft in with discussions of the FANG stocks.

Investors looking for a defensive tech bet in a diversified portfolio can sleep well at night owning Apple. However, Tilson says investors looking for better performance over the long-haul have a better choice staring them in the face.

“To be clear, both are insanely great companies and I think Apple’s stock will also do well going forward – just not as well as Alphabet’s,” Tilson says.

The Alphabet stock price will continue to benefit from several long-term secular trends. The digital transformation of the advertising and retail businesses are the biggest. The company also has several “wild card” growth projects under its wing, including its Google Cloud and Waymo autonomous vehicle technology subsidiaries.

Technology investors looking for stable capital returns at the expense of growth should buy AAPL stock. Investors looking for massive growth numbers and a sky-high valuation should buy NFLX stock. But long-term investors looking for the best value-growth combo should consider GOOGL stock as a core holding.

As of this writing, Wayne Duggan did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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