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Wednesday, May 30, 2007, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

Apple now valued at over $100 billion

Apple Inc.'s market capitalization broke the $100 billion barrier for the first time on Wednesday, as shares of the company surged above $116 following a bullish research report from investment bank Morgan Stanley.

That puts the Cupertino-based company's perceived market value at nearly twice that of long-time rival Dell, which was valued at $59.8 billion as of noon eastern time, and approximately a third of that of Microsoft, which has been teetering around $295 billion.

Coincidentally, it will be ten years this October since Dell founder Michael Dell weighed in with his thoughts on how he would fix the then beleaguered Mac maker.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders," he told a crowd of several thousand IT executives at the time.

Shares of Apple were helped Wednesday by a research report from Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, which asserted that the Mac maker's operating leverage remained underappreciated by investors.

In the report, Huberty raised her price target on shares of the company by more than 35 percent, from $110 to $150, but also laid out a "bull case" scenario that could see shares rising as high as $225 over the next twelve months.

Under that best case, the analyst said, U.S.-based Mac market share would need to appreciate to 5 percent in 2007 and 6 percent in 2008, while iPhone would need to see strong global penetration to 24 million units in 2008.

The bull case scenario would also hinge on Apple introducing an ultraportable Mac device by next January that would sell 3 million units within its first year, the analyst said.

Shares of Apple were trading up $2.62 (or 2.29 percent) to $116.97 in afternoon trading on the Nasdaq stock market.