By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
February 15, 2010

Displaces J&J in the annual list of companies “most admired by major investors”

“If an Apple shareholder fell asleep in the summer of 2008 and didn’t waken until Christmas 2009,” writes Vito J. Racanelli, introducing The World’s Most Respected Companies in this week’s issue of
Barron’s Magazine
, “he’d hardly notice anything had been amiss, based on the stock price.”

Indeed stock performance seemed to be the primary criterion of the 70 investors who selected Apple from a list of the world’s 100 largest companies, although lip service was paid, as always, to such things as strong management and ethical business practices — “understandable,” writes Racanelli, “given the drumbeat of criticism about allegedly dodgy practices throughout the corporate world and on Wall Street, in particular.”


In any event, here’s what Barron’s had to say about Apple:

Share performance undoubtedly played a role in elevating investors’ respect for Apple, but there is plenty more than stock price behind the company’s first-place finish.

John Cregan, veteran money manager at Hotchkiss Associates, a unit of United Capital Financial Advisers, says he admires Apple because the company “is at the top of the list of seeing around corners. They aren’t out there trying to find out what their customers want, but saying rather, ‘Look at this advancement in technology. It enables us to do this. You might not want it yet or know what to do with it, but you will want it and we are going to build it.'”

One skeptic on Apple is Cornell Capital’s Hartzell, who thinks the iPad will be a bust. Yet he gives Apple CEO Steve Jobs credit for “taking a big cut” at the ball.

The way things have fallen into place, Jobs could probably get himself elected king of the world. But contrarians would note that the company’s stock is so beloved that it might not have much gas left, at least in the short term. (link)

The analysts who track Apple, for what it’s worth, seem to think there’s at least a little gas left in the tank. Their median target for Apple shares, according to Thomson Financial, is a shade under $250. Late last week, Needham’s Charlie Wolf raised his target to $280 from $235.

The stock closed Friday just over $200, having dipped as low as $194.12 during Macworld.

Barron’s top 10 for 2010:

  1. Apple (AAPL)
  2. Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
  3. Procter and Gamble (PG)
  4. IBM (IBM)
  5. Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A)
  6. Toyota Motor (TM)
  7. McDonalds (MCD)
  8. Google (GOOG)
  9. Cisco (CSCO)
  10. Amazon (AMZN)

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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