THE APPLE INVESTOR: Apple More Popular Than Major League Baseball

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AAPL Up In A Directionless Market 
Stocks are searching for direction today after commodity prices recovered some of their losses from last week. Shares of AAPL are up versus a flat tech market. Upcoming catalysts include the WWDC starting June 6; iPad 2 supply stabilisation; the iPhone 5 launch this summer / fall; smartphone push into China and emerging markets; iTunes and other cloud initiatives; the continued evolution and adoption of Apple TV; and new platforms such as video, books / publishing and social (Ping). Shares of Apple trade at 11x Enterprise Value / Trailing Twelve Months Free Cash Flow (incl. long-term marketable securities).

Apple Sucks When It Comes To Net Capital Returned Vs. Operating Cash flow (Seeking Alpha)
Share repurchases and dividends are often viewed as a good sign for a company since they are ways of returning capital to the investors. Apple has not returned any net capital to shareholders over the past three years. In comparison to other leading tech companies of net capital returned versus operating cash flow, Apple comes out in the bottom of the bunch with (4.9%).

Boosting iOS To Take On Google And Keep Users Interested (Fast Company)
Apple is incrementally adding in new iOS features, some to rival Google, some to surpass it. The next big change will likely be cloud-based services to add a whole new angle to using your mobile device. Will Apple embrace 3-D solutions for images and video after this, to keep current consumer interested and to attract new ones? Some rumours hint they may try it.

Future iOS Likely To Include Voice Recognition Services Powered By Nuance (TechCrunch)
Apple has reportedly been in talks with Nuance for several months, suggesting that the future of iOS will incorporate a more intelligent voice recognition service. Nuance provides speech recognition technology (and patents) and importantly the capabilities behind the Siri Artificial Intelligence application that Apple purchased last year. As WWDC and the unveiling of iOS 5 approaches, all eyes are on what Apple may or may not bring to its devices with the next major iOS release. Read more at Business Insider.

Is Apple More Popular Than Baseball? (Fortune)
Could Apple be more popular than Major League Baseball? Visitors to Apple’s retail stores last quarter of 71.1 million compared to MLB attendance figures for the entire 2010 season of 73.6 million seem to indicate yes. Apple is certainly more profitable than professional baseball. Baseball fans will argue that Apple is a business, while baseball is entertainment that most people enjoy remotely on radio or TV. But professional baseball is a business too; in decline.

Apple Moves To The Number 4 Spot In Barron’s 500 (Barron’s)
Barron’s 500, which ranks America’s largest companies based on financial performance, moved Apple up 55 spots to number 4 in its 13th annual ranking. Jacqueline Doherty says that Apple “has generated stellar sales growth and handsome profits from the iPod, iPhone and related products, and its shares have rallied 321%, to 347, since the stock market bottomed in March 2009. Yet the stock, which trades for only 12.2 times next year’s expected earnings, still isn’t richly valued.”

Apple Boots Google As Most Valuable Brand In The World (AdAge)
The strength of the iPad has pushed Apple ahead of Google for the first time as the most valuable brand in the world, according to Millward Brown’s 2011 BrandZ study of the most-valuable global brands. Apple ended a four-year run by Google at the top of the brand ranking.