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Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 04:55 am PT (07:55 am ET)

Piper: Despite recent struggles, now a good time to own Apple stock

Apple has become a victim of its own success, but the company's growth rate will remain sustainable for the next four years, one prominent Wall Street analyst believes.

Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray issued a note to investors on Wednesday declaring that "now is a good time to own" AAPL stock. He said he's confident that the stock will continue its upward trajectory in the coming years, regardless of recent struggles.

"In many ways Apple is a victim of its own success in the eyes of shareholders," Munster wrote. "There are several reasons why some are concerned AAPL will not move higher, including ownership reaching maximum levels among key investors, tough growth comps over the next several quarters, and a lack of share appreciation following a significant beat in March.

"But we believe that the multiple will expand slightly as the Street gains confidence in sustainable growth of 25% or greater, new product categories, and new software announced at WWDC on 6/6 will serve as a catalyst in the future."

Among potential new product categories, Munster continues to believe that Apple will eventually enter the high-definition television set market, with its own high-end, connected TV offering direct access to iTunes content. He said Wednesday he believes Apple will launch a connected HDTV in the next 2 to 4 years, and restated his belief that the company could introduce such a product by the end of calendar year 2012 at the earliest.

As for the upcoming Worldwide Developers Conference starting on June 6, Munster believes that expectations for the event are "relatively low," because of numerous reports that Apple will not introduce new iPhone hardware as it has done in years past.

"But we believe the software features for the next version of iPhone software (iOS 5) and Mac software (OS X Lion) could exceed those low expectations, and may indicate new hardware features," Munster wrote. "additionally, there is always the 'one more thing'-factor that Apple could surprise the crowd with a new service or product."

Piper Jaffray


Munster has conservatively modeled for Apple to grow 23 percent year over year in calendar year 2012. Beyond that, he expects Apple to grow its revenue in the high-20s percent range over the next four years.

While Apple's growth is projected to continue, the numbers presented by Munster are significantly less than the sky-high year over year figures Apple has posted recently. For example, in the most recent March quarter, the company's profits increased 95 percent to $5.99 billion.

But Munster said his projections in the high 20s are also "well ahead" of the long-term growth rate many investors assume for Apple. On Wall Street, the expectation is for the company's growth to be in the 15-to-20-percent range over the next four years.

Piper Jaffray has maintained its "overweight" rating for AAPL stock, as well as a price target of $554.