The Cheap, Backdoor Way to Invest in Apple

Wednesday, 30 Mar 2011 02:53 PM

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You’ve certainly heard of Apple (AAPL), the darling of Wall Street with a market cap of over $325 billion and reams of frothy prose from market pundits and tech geeks alike regularly punctuating the pages of financial papers, magazines and websites.

It’s much less likely you’ve heard of Cirrus Logic (CRUS). No wonder, perhaps, as the semiconductor company lacks an iconic, transcendent leader like Steve Jobs, and its market cap is “merely” $1.47 billion.

What Cirrus Logic does have, however, is a business of developing integrated circuits for specialized applications in consumer electronic devices, including Apple’s iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

The company’s more than 700 products include audio encoder/decoders (codecs), digital amplifiers, digital audio converters, energy management devices, and power amplifiers. Cirrus Logic also develops system-on-a-chip products, which unite processors, controllers, memory, and other components on a single chip. Approximately 75 percent of the company’s revenues are generated from sales outside of the United States, primarily from customers in China and other Asian countries.

Cirrus Logic is very strong financially, with its cash and marketable securities alone equal to approximately 3.5 times the company’s total financial obligations as of its last balance sheet dated Dec. 25, 2010. That strong cash position poises the company to acquire other companies with synergistic or competitive aspirations.

 

Revenues and earnings expanded at very fast rates during the past few quarters, a trend likely to continue. For the most recent quarter ended Dec. 25, 2010, Cirrus Logic doubled its diluted earnings per share to $0.34 from $0.17 during the same quarter a year ago, on a 47 percent increase in the company’s revenues.

Yet, the company’s stock appears to be trading at a bargain price in relation to its expected earnings capacity, with a Price/Earnings to Growth ratio of only 0.7 as of March 28.

Although the company’s stock pulled back considerably during the two weeks ended March 18, primarily as a result of investors’ concerns about the shutdown of several semiconductor manufacturing facilities in Japan, it rallied after investors realized that the company’s operations will be very minimally affected by the post-tsunami situation. (To wit: Cirrus Logic maintains only 0.1 percent of its property, plants, and equipment in Japan, and it sold only 5.6 percent of its products through sales offices based in Japan during the fiscal year ended March 31, 2010.)


The fact that Morgan Stanley analysts issued a report on March 25 forecasting Apple Computer’s revenues to rise sharply over the next two years also bodes well for the direction of CRUS. That’s because Cirrus Logic currently derives approximately 36 percent of its revenues from sales of its audio chips to Apple.

If you’d like to play Apple’s growth story without buying in at its current lofty stock price, a company like Cirrus may be just the low-key alternative you’re looking for.

Although stocks of semiconductor companies pulled back sharply for a few days following the devastating earthquakes and tsunamis that hit Japan on March 11, most chip stocks rebounded over the past 10 days, with the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index (SOX) rallying 4.2 percent from March 15 to 1 p.m. (Eastern time) on March 29. In comparison, the S&P 500 Index gained only 2.7 percent during that same period.

Meanwhile, the SOX remains substantially above its 200-day moving average and it is rapidly approaching its 50-day moving average, which suggests that stocks of semiconductor companies, including Cirrus Logic (CRUS), will continue to rebound over the near-term.

 

Looking farther out, industry experts expect the demand for smart-phones to increase at a fast rate over the next several years, which bodes well for the types of products that Cirrus Logic designs.

 

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