RBC Capital Markets believes that Apple starting a cryptocurrency exchange funded through buying Bitcoin could be a smarter move than producing an "Apple Car."
In a note to investors seen by Coindesk, RBC analyst Mitch Steves says that Apple could generate more than $40 billion from the cryptocurrency market and make the U.S. a leader in crypto over the next couple of decades.
The analyst posits that Apple would implement crypto exchange functionality in the Apple Pay Wallet app. By doing so, it could "immediately gain market share and disrupt the industry."
Steves draws a potential comparison to financial tech company Square, which currently operates in the bitcoin space.
"Apple's install base in 1.5B, and even if we assume only 200M users would transact, this is 6.66x larger than Square. Therefore, the potential revenue opportunity would be in excess of $40 billion a year (15% incremental top-line opportunity)," Steves writes.
The analyst claims that the "Apple Car" could be a good long-term opportunity for the Cupertino tech giant. However, he believes that competing with Elon Musk and Tesla could be riskier than simply opening an Apple-branded cryptocurrency exchange.
Steves believes that Apple's position as a dominant technology company could do away with many of the issues of existing cryptocurrency exchanges. The competition in the crypto industry is also "light," the analyst adds.
Apple establishing itself in the crypto market could also reduce the chances that the U.S. implements regulations to ban or curb bitcoin.
Tesla on Monday announced that it purchased $1.5 billion worth of bitcoin. Steves believes that a similar purchase from Apple could fund the development of an Apple cryptocurrency exchange and drive customers to the "Apple Exchange."
"For example, if [Apple] purchased $5 billion wroth of bitcoin (20-25 days of cash flow, the price of the underlying asset would need to rise by 10% for the firm to fully fund the entire project in the first place," Steves postulates. "This is a solid value proposition in our as the business would be funded without diluting any other projects at the firm."
RBC places a $171 price target on Apple, based on a 35x multiple to the company's 2022 earnings-per-share estimate of $4.92.