The coronavirus pandemic has crushed many industries but has favorably impacted work-at-home tech stocks due to the accelerated need for digitization and remote services and solutions during the crisis. The rapid shift to stay-at-home and learn-from-home trends coupled with a rise in internet usage has boosted demand for laptops, tablets and cloud services since the COVID-19 outbreak. Tech companies like Zoom Video, Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, DocuSign, and Fastly have benefited from pandemic-induced demand for many of their products and services.
Using the TipRanks’ Stock Comparison tool, we will place tech giants Microsoft and Apple alongside each other to see which stock offers a more compelling investment opportunity.
Microsoft has reinvented itself under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella and emerged as the second-largest cloud computing provider through its Azure platform lagging only Amazon (AMZN), which leads the market with its Amazon Web Services (AWS). Microsoft’s commercial cloud revenue surpassed the $50 billion mark for the first time in fiscal 2020 (ended June 30).
Microsoft’s market capitalization crossed the $1 trillion for the first time last year. The company has boosted its growth prospects through several strategic acquisitions, including LinkedIn in 2016 and GitHub in 2018.
Last month, Microsoft announced that it will acquire ZeniMax Media and its game publisher Bethesda Softworks for $7.5 billion. The deal will add Bethesda’s top gaming franchises like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout and will enhance the exclusive titles that will be available on Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass subscription service.
Microsoft believes that games are the primary growth engine fueling new cloud-gaming services like Xbox Game Pass as the gaming industry is transitioning from a device-centric to a player-centric platform. With the addition of Bethesda, the tech giant will have 23 creative studio teams up from 15.
On Oct. 8, Morgan Stanley analyst Keith Weiss reiterated a Buy rating on the stock with a price target of $245 as he sees a potential tailwind for the company from the fiscal 2021 Xbox Series X and S console launches and from the purchase of Bethesda Softworks. The analyst also believes that the concerns about the console cycle adversely impacting gross margins "may be inflated" and that the overall gross margin expansion potential in fiscal 2021 remains underappreciated.
Weiss sees a potential $80 billion valuation for Microsoft's gaming subscription business alone. (See MSFT stock analysis on TipRanks)
Meanwhile, in July Microsoft reported better-than-expected results for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2020 (ended Jun. 30). The company’s fiscal 4Q revenue grew 12.8% Y/Y to $38 billion while EPS declined 14.6% to $1.46 mainly due to the impact of a $450 million charge related to the closure of retail stores.
Revenue from the Productivity and Business Processes segment (includes Office 365, Microsoft 365, LinkedIn, Dynamics business solutions) increased 6% to $11.8 billion. However, the company noted that a weak job market hurt LinkedIn’s growth.
Intelligent Cloud segment’s (comprises server products and cloud services, including Azure, and enterprise services) revenue grew 17% to $13.4 billion with Azure revenue growing 47%. Although, it is notable that Azure growth decelerated from 59% in fiscal 3Q reflecting the impact of intense competition in the cloud market.
Revenue from the More Personal Computing segment (includes Windows, gaming revenue, sales from devices like Surface and revenue from Bing and Microsoft Advertising) rose 14% to $12.9 billion. The pandemic impacted Microsoft’s advertising revenue in fiscal 4Q as businesses cut back their marketing spending.
Looking ahead, the company anticipates its fiscal 2021 1Q revenue to benefit from demand for its cloud services and gaming revenue while it expects weakness in demand from small to medium businesses to be a drag on its transactional sales.
The Street has a bullish outlook for Microsoft with a Strong Buy consensus based on 24 Buys versus 3 Holds and no Sells. The stock has surged about 37% year-to-date and the average analyst price target of $230.92 indicates potential upside of 7% in the coming months.
Apple’s focus on innovation helped the company establish itself as one of the most valuable global brands. It was the first publicly traded US firm to hit $1 trillion market capitalization and the $2 trillion level as well. The company’s game-changing innovations over the years include the iPod, iPad and of course iPhone, which represents the largest revenue stream for the company.
The iPhone maker's loyal customers are eagerly awaiting the launch of 5G-enabled iPhone 12 smartphones. Last week, Morgan Stanley analyst Kathryn Huberty reiterated a Buy rating for Apple as she sees the upcoming iPhone launch event on Oct. 13 as a catalyst to drive shares towards her price target of $130 (11% upside potential).
"Our detailed iPhone mix and pricing analysis suggests FY21 Street unit and ASP [Average Selling Price] estimates remain too low," Huberty wrote in a note to investors. The analyst raised her fiscal 2021 iPhone shipment estimate to 220 million units from 218 million units and also increased the company’s fiscal 2021 revenue and EPS estimates by 2%. (See AAPL stock analysis on TipRanks)
iPhone sales accounted for 44% of the overall revenue for the third quarter of fiscal 2020 (ended Jun. 27). However, it is the services and wearables businesses where strong growth prospects are expected. These businesses are helping in offsetting the slowdown in iPhone revenue growth as competition from lower-priced smartphones is increasing. Also, the company’s services business carries a higher margin compared to other businesses.
In fiscal 3Q, Apple’s overall revenue grew about 11% Y/Y to $59.7 billion as the company experienced strong sales for its Macs and iPads amid the pandemic. The company reported growth across all other segments despite the impact of COVID-related store closures. iPhone revenue grew 1.7% to $26.4 billion. Overall, EPS was up 18% to $2.58 in fiscal 3Q.
Revenue from the Wearables, Home and Accessories category (includes AirPods, Apple Watch, Apple TV, Beats products, and other products and accessories) rose about 17% to $6.45 billion in 3Q. Services business, which includes revenue from the digital content stores, advertising, AppleCare and Apple TV+, grew 15% to $13.2 billion and accounted for 22% of overall revenue.
The Street is cautiously optimistic on Apple stock. The Moderate Buy analyst consensus breaks down into 24 Buys, 8 Holds and 3 Sells. Shares have surged 59.4% so far in 2020 with the average analyst price target of $122.06 suggesting a modest upside potential of 4.4% from current levels.
Both Microsoft and Apple are investing in key growth markets and have strong long-term growth potential. Microsoft has a dividend yield of 1% compared to Apple’s 0.70%. Last month, Microsoft announced a 10% increase in its quarterly dividend to $0.56 while Apple hiked its dividend by 6.5% to $0.82.
To summarize, a higher dividend yield, greater upside potential and the Street’s more bullish stance based on strong growth prospects in cloud services and gaming make Microsoft a better pick currently compared to Apple.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the featured analysts. The content is intended to be used for informational purposes only. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any investment