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Since this story was reported, Apple regained its $1 trillion market cap.
Over the past month, the coronavirus has ravaged the stock market—knocking billions of dollars off companies’ market caps. Now, there’s only one trillion-dollar U.S. company left: Microsoft.
The software behemoth held on to a market cap of $1.03 trillion as of Monday, as its former trillion-dollar peers struggled (and failed) to keep their market caps above the venerable mark. Apple, Amazon, and Alphabet have since fallen behind Microsoft (which was the third company to hit the $1 trillion mark initially in April 2019. Saudi Aramco is the only other company, not based in the U.S., to have a market cap of $1.5 trillion).
Since the market peaked on Feb. 12, Microsoft’s stock is down roughly 19%, while Apple and Alphabet are both down around 25%.
But why is Microsoft the standout? For Wedbush’s Dan Ives, who covers companies like Microsoft and Apple, the answer is simple: cloud. “Part of why Microsoft has almost been the Rock of Gibraltar in this dark storm is because of how exposed and leveraged they are to the cloud theme,” Ives tells Fortune.
Ives suggests that the shift to remote working and remote learning is going to be a long-term overall catalyst for cloud-based infrastructure—something that makes up about 70% of Microsoft’s business, he says.
Although the company’s traditional PC business is more exposed to supply chain and consumer headwinds, Microsoft’s cloud business is shored up by enterprise. That’s why Ives estimates 80% to 90% of Microsoft’s valuation is cloud-driven.
That enterprise aspect stands to bolster the titan’s cloud and software businesses (like Azure, Redmine, and Office 365). “Microsoft is one where the trend to move to cloud is such a high-priority purchase in terms of the pecking order, they’re just going to be less exposed to the headwinds than some consumer-driven companies like an Alphabet or an Apple,” Ives says. That almost “provides a floor on the stock,” he says, thanks to a “Teflon-like spending area, as enterprises now have to accelerate their move to the cloud.”
Companies like Apple are not only facing supply chain pressure, but consumer demand pressure, as people are now focused on “their health, groceries, and hand sanitizer,” not the new iPhone, Ives suggests. And for Alphabet, the COVID-19 environment is creating less consumer disposable income and less advertising from companies—something that’s going to hurt Alphabet’s advertising revenue.
As the workforce (and world) shifts to the cloud, Ives believes the impacts will be permanent. And for investors, Microsoft, which boasts a 1.4% dividend yield as well, is both a “defensive and offensive name.”
Still, if markets can pick up in the near future, the others aren’t too far off from reclaiming the $1-trillion-company title: Apple would need to rise roughly 2% to recapture its $1 trillion market cap, while Alphabet would need to rise roughly 27%, based on Monday.
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