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Here’s Where Apple Is Likely to Make Acquisitions

Apple Unveils New iPad ModelsApple Unveils New iPad Models
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an event introducing new iPads at Apple's headquarters October 16, 2014 in Cupertino, California.Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Following Apple’s second quarter earnings yesterday, many investors and analysts were asking, if Apple does indeed enter an era of acquisitions in order to boost flagging sales—who will they buy?

After all, during the earnings call Tuesday, even CEO Tim Cook noted that the company was “very active” in the acquisition space, and he would be open to making acquisitions larger than the ones made so far. Apple largest acquisition to date was Beats for $3 billion.

So Piper Jaffray Managing Director Gene Munster noted the three key areas he sees Apple making acquisitions: The company’s automotive, virtual reality and mixed reality sectors. Piper Jaffray maintained an overweight rating on the stock, another way of saying buy, and set a price target of $104.35.

Munster started by saying that a potential Apple and Tesla merger or acquisition was highly unlikely. Back in February, Bloomberg reported that Apple’s acquisition chief and Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk met, though no details were leaked.

“We note that buying an established brand with significant brand equity like Tesla defeats the purpose of leveraging Apple’s brand on a car,” Munster wrote, adding that Apple wanted to design, not manufacture cars. “We believe companies developing autonomous vehicle capabilities could make sense for Apple.”

According to Munster, Apple is also likely to make acquisitions in the virtual reality space, and the company could gobble up “teams and products including head-mounted mixed reality displays, light-field technologies, and incorporating human input including hands into computers. ”

Mixed reality, a category that includes Microsoft’s Hololens, would also provide a key area of growth for Apple, since the platform is “the future of screens as we know them.” Munster has also previously predicted that Apple will release a mixed reality headsets to replace the cellphone in about 15 or more years.

But Munster noted one other area where Apple is unlikely to follow in the footsteps of its fellow giant, Amazon: Content streaming.

In order to offer its customers a full selection of content, Apple is more likely to form partnerships with content creators rather than acquire a studio. Munster noted that “if Apple were to acquire content creators, it would put it in conflict with those content owners that Apple did not own.”

But Munster also wrote that while acquisitions seem like an attractive option for further growth, the move is unlikely to please investors—at least not in the medium-term, or within the next one to two years. That’s because investors are thirsty for results within the next one or two years.

“Investors want Apple to buy companies as a panacea for growth in the near to medium term, but in our view the issue is that any companies that could meaningfully change Apple’s growth picture over the next one to two years are probably too large to acquire,” he wrote. “While Cook left the door open for larger deals, we believe there few large companies that make sense for Apple to buy.“