By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
June 21, 2010

With the company — and the stock — on a tear, a checklist of what could go wrong

Bernstein Research’s Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst with a long history of bearish Apple (AAPL) predictions (see below) chose an odd day to make what he calls the “bear case [for] a darling among buyside investors.”

Apple was trading at record highs for the third day in a row Monday when Sacconaghi offered his clients these bullet points:

  • Apple’s market cap is too large for it to outperform, and its image has migrated from underdog to Silicon Valley bully, which will increasingly pit competitors against it.
  • Increased regulatory scrutiny threatens to undermine Apple’s powerful iOS ecosystem.
  • Sustained growth in iPhones will inevitably lead to margin pressure.
  • Near-term expectations for iPhone and iPad units are getting heady, risking disappointment.
  • Apple insistence on retaining cash points to a risk of the company squandering it on a flawed acquisition.

In the end, the analyst seems unconvinced by his own analysis.

“At this point,” Sacconaghi concludes, “none of the aforementioned potential pitfalls concerns us sufficiently to change our earnings estimates or price targets, and we continue to believe the stock remains attractively valued… We continue to view AAPL as the most secularly attractive name in our coverage universe, and rate the stock outperform with a price target of $300.”

Apple opened at $277.75 and hit a new intraday high of $279.01 before falling back in mid-morning trading.

A few of Sacconaghi’s greatest Apple hits:

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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