Apple becomes the first US$1 trillion company in history

Apple became the first US$1 trillion (S$1 trillion) publicly listed US company, crowning a decade-long rise fuelled by the iPhone that transformed it from a niche player in personal computers into a global powerhouse.
Apple's market value topped $1 trillion and sparked a rebound in tech stocks that boosted the Nasdaq and S&P 500. VIDEO: REUTERS
Customers from Bangkok posing with their new iPhone Xs at an Apple store in Singapore in November 2017.
Customers from Bangkok posing with their new iPhone Xs at an Apple store in Singapore in November 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - Apple became the first US$1 trillion (S$1.3 trillion) publicly listed and non-state-owned company on Thursday (Aug 2), crowning a decade-long rise fuelled by its ubiquitous iPhone that transformed it from a niche player in personal computers into a global powerhouse spanning entertainment and communications.

The tech company’s stock jumped 2.9 per cent to end the day at US$207.39, giving it a market capitalisation of US$1.002 trillion. During the session, Apple’s stock market value reached as much as US$1.006 trillion.

Apple has rallied about 9 per cent since Tuesday, when it reported June-quarter results above expectations and said it bought back US$20 billion of its own shares. It was Apple’s best-two-day run since April 2014.

The first company to ever reach US$1 trillion in market value was China's state-owned oil giant PetroChina whose market cap hit US$1 trillion in 2007 after a successful debut on the Shanghai Stock Exchange on Nov 5 of that year, said CNBC. But when oil prices collapsed and a global financial crisis broke out, PetroChina's market value plummeted to less than US$260 billion by the end of 2008, representing the largest destruction of shareholder wealth in world history, according to Bloomberg.

Started in the garage of co-founder Steve Jobs in 1976, Apple has pushed its revenue beyond the economic outputs of Portugal, New Zealand and other countries. Along the way, it has changed how consumers connect with one another and how businesses conduct daily commerce.

Apple’s stock market value is greater than the combined capitalisation of Exxon Mobil, Procter & Gamble and AT&T. It now accounts for 4 per cent of the S&P 500.

The Silicon Valley stalwart’s stock has surged more than 50,000 per cent since its 1980 initial public offering, dwarfing the S&P 500’s approximately 2,000-per-cent increase during the same almost four decades.

One of three founders, Jobs was driven out of Apple in the mid-1980s, only to return a decade later and rescue the computer company from near bankruptcy.

He launched the iPhone in 2007, dropping “Computer” from Apple’s name and super-charging the cellphone industry, catching Microsoft, Intel, Samsung Electronics and Nokia off guard. That put Apple on a path to overtake Exxon Mobil in 2011 as the largest US company by market value.

During that time, Apple evolved from selling Mac personal computers to becoming an architect of the mobile revolution with a cult-like following.

Jobs, who died in 2011, was succeeded as chief executive by Tim Cook, who has doubled the company’s profits but struggled to develop a new product to replicate the society-altering success of the iPhone, which has seen sales taper off in recent years.

In 2006, the year before the iPhone launch, Apple generated less than US$20 billion in sales and net profit just shy of US$2 billion. By last year, its sales had grown more than 11-fold to US$229 billion – the fourth highest in the S&P 500 – and net income had mushroomed at twice that rate to US$48.4 billion, making it the most profitable publicly-listed US company.

ONE MORE THING ...

Jeff Carbone, co-founder of Cornerstone Financial Partners in Charlotte, North Carolina, has included Apple in his clients’ portfolios for about a decade. Recently, some of his older clients have bought Apple shares for their grandchildren.

“We still see upside from it, and as new money gets deposited we continue to buy, preferably on the dip,” Carbone said.

 
 
 
 

Apple’s stock has risen over 30 per cent in the past year, fuelled by optimism about the iPhone X, launched a decade after the original. Also propelling Apple higher in recent months was Apple’s announcement that it earmarked US$100 billion for a new share repurchase programme.

In its report on Tuesday, Apple sales led by the iPhone X, which sells for about US$1,000, pushed quarterly results far beyond Wall Street targets, with subscriptions from App Store, Apple Music and iCloud services bolstering business.

“The markets are starting to recognize the value of its platform and services more and more, and that’s what is being reflected in the increase in market capitalisation,” said Brad Neuman, director of Market Strategy at Alger, a growth equity asset management firm in New York City.

Even with its US$1,000,000,000,000 stock market value, many analysts do not view Apple’s shares as expensive. Shares of Apple this week traded at about 15 times expected earnings, compared to Amazon at 82 times earnings and Microsoft at 25 times earnings.

Adjusting for four stock splits over the years, Apple debuted on the stock market for the equivalent of 39 cents a share on Dec 12, 1980, compared to Thursday’s high of US$208.38.

In 2015, Apple joined the Dow Jones Industrial Average, one of capitalism’s most exclusive clubs. Since 1980, IBM, Exxon Mobil, General Electric and Microsoft have also alternated as the largest publicly listed US company.

In 2007, Chinese government-controlled PetroChina briefly reached a stock market value of about US$1.1 trillion following its public listing in Shanghai. It is now worth about US$200 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.

One of five US companies since the 1980s to take a turn as Wall Street’s largest company by market capitalisation, Apple could lose its lead to the likes of Alphabet or Amazon.com if it does not find a major new product or service as global demand for smartphones loses steam.

Hot on Apple’s heels is Amazon.com, the second-largest listed US company by market value, at around US$880 billion, closely followed by Google-owner Alphabet and by Microsoft.