It’s been three years since Berenberg Bank analyst Adnaan Ahmad began predicting doom for Apple, setting a split-adjusted price target of $60 a share and—five months later—flipped the stock’s rating from Buy to Sell.
This spring, with the iPhone 6 selling like hotcakes and the stock trading above $124, Ahmad raised his target (to $85) but not his rating. “We sense,” he wrote, “that the company is over-earning, over-loved and, in our view, the stock should be ‘over-and-out’ soon.”
Ahmad’s ultra-bearish stance on the world’s most valuable company might be laughable if Apple (AAPL) weren’t trading closer to his $85 than the Street’s consensus. (See spreadsheet below.)
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I took a whack at Ahmad a couple months ago, quoting at length from “Apple: Ticking Time Bomb”—a note he sent clients at the end of October that included this puzzling paragraph:
“For Apple, Mr. Market is questioning volumes and growth at the moment. That is why the momentum only has left the building. The issue for value investors is that when mix and ASP start being questioned, then it is natural to bring in gross margin developments. Like Nokia in the 2000s, Apple will probably cut opex, but like Nokia’s stock, Mr. Market will not be fooled. That is when the value guys will leave the building and Apple’s stock will be well and truly crushed as the ‘consumer electronics’ label will replace ecosystem/stickiness/recurring revenues.”
I’d read that paragraph a dozen times, and it didn’t make any more sense the 12th time than it did the first.
“This may be what passes for analysis at Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co., the world’s fifth oldest bank (in partnership since 1590),” I wrote. “But if this is where Mr. Market is getting his Apple advice, we’re all in trouble.”
Now I feel bad. This crossed my desk today:
From: Adnaan Ahmad
Subject: Adnaan Ahmad has left Berenberg
As you may already know, Daud Khan and I have unfortunately been let go at Berenberg. It has been a pleasure debating and discussing the sector with you all. I have strived to be as honest, independent and give a high level of integrity in my research as possible throughout my career. As many of you know, my views have been controversial in the global tech space and I have taken a fair amount of abuse but I have enjoyed the two way dialogue immensely and I hope to be in contact shortly, in the meantime, these are my personal contact details and if you know of any opportunities or have any ideas for us, please let us know.
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Below: The current price targets of nearly 40 Apple (AAPL) analysts, as up-to-date as I can make them (corrections appreciated). Ahmad’s latest is included for comparison purposes.
Click to enlarge.