When Apple Inc. (AAPL) ignited the smartphone revolution in 2007, it continued its ongoing policy of using a fairly heavy hand on its suppliers to contain costs and keep its margins at the highest level possible. That is a strategy Apple still employs, as many Wall Street analysts and commentators howl over the prices of the new iPhone 5S and 5C models. In fact, the tech team at UBS believes Apple still will see product gross margins of 50.4% for the 5S and 49.9% for the 5C.
With Apple taking home margins that are among the highest in the industry, the team at UBS did a deep dive through the cost analysis of each phone to see which suppliers were holding their own and which were being forced to keep a razor-thin profit margin in order to maintain their share. While there were clear winners and losers, and Apple’s tradition of keeping the heat on its suppliers most likely will never change, four top stocks to buy will indeed reap the benefits of their relationship with Apple.
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ARM Holdings PLC (ARMH) makes the top four, and it looks to have a strong finish to this year. Apple's move to 64-bit technology has "raised the stakes" in the high-end smartphone and tablet markets, "and we believe other prominent ARM licensees will be forced to follow," says a Sept. 19 report by Canaccord Genuity. The standard smartphone processor is the 32-bit variety. Sixty-four-bit chips are faster and more powerful. This totally revs up the performance of the new phones, and ARM is getting rave reviews for its products. The Thomson/First Call price target for the stock is posted at $50. Investors are paid a very small 0.3% dividend. The stock closed Monday at $47.95.
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Micron Technology Inc. (MU) has completed the acquisition of Elpida, and this has helped it buy its way into the iPhone. Elpida had supplied memory for the iPhone 5 as well, and it looks like it is increasingly becoming a close Apple partner with the latest win. Micron also is seeing solid sales of its chips for solid-state drives, and this has led to a boost in production of NAND chips. The acquisition of Elpida has helped Micron strengthen its position in the DRAM market, and the booming demand for mobile DRAM should help it do even better. The stock has had a tremendous run this year, and investors may want to look for a pullback to initiate positions. The consensus price target for the stock is $19. Micron closed Monday at $17.15.
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SanDisk Corp. (SNDK) is one of the leading manufacturers and suppliers of flash memory storage drives. The company reported its second-quarter earnings in July and recorded revenue of $1.48 billion, which was up an impressive 43% from last year. The burgeoning demand for SanDisk's products and the increase in price of its micro SD cards contributed to the rise in margins. Most mobile phone manufacturers now provide a card slot in their devices, leading to increased demand for memory cards. Customers looking to store more data have led to the growth of micro SD cards, pushing up demand in the process. The alliance with Apple just increased the odds the company will continue to dominate flash memory storage. The consensus price target is placed at $70. Investors are paid a 1.5% dividend. SanDisk closed Monday at $58.90.
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Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) designs, develops, manufactures and markets digital telecommunications products and services. With several wireless patents and massive scale, Qualcomm is positioned to profit from the surging global growth of mobile devices. Its dual income stream from sales and royalties keeps Qualcomm as one of the top tech stocks to buy on Wall Street. The consensus price target for the stock is $75.50, and investors are paid a decent 2.1% dividend.
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After years of product introduction and hoopla surrounding Apple, the company hit some speed bumps and the stock got absolutely blasted, sinking from a high of $700 in September of last year to below $400 in April. While the stock has bounced back, many investors have taken a more jaded view of the company, as they feel its innovation has stalled. The new iPhones have helped to kick-start a reinvigorated marketing plan, and Apple seems to be back on its game. That is a turn of events that should bode well for its top suppliers.