Apple car could drive company to $1 trillion valuation

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Apple Inc.’s experimentation with car technology could help push the company’s valuation past $1 trillion within the next 12 months from nearly $750 billion today, according to the new bull-case price target set Monday by Morgan Stanley.

The brokerage raised its 12-month stock price target on Apple AAPL, -0.07%  to $160, from $133 previously, and established a $190 bull-case scenario, up from $160. Morgan Stanley’s previous bull case didn’t take into account the car opportunity.

Apple’s expanding ecosystem, including the Apple Watch and CarPlay, have created a “virtuous cycle” that could quadruple Apple’s total addressable market by 2020, said Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, whose price target puts her among the most bullish Apple analysts on Wall Street.

‘We are convinced that Apple will have a significant presence in the auto industry in the coming years.’

Morgan Stanley

While Apple hasn’t confirmed plans to develop its own car, reports have suggested that it is hiring auto experts, including former Tesla Motors Inc. TSLA, -0.09% employees, and has established a top-secret team to invest in car technologies.

The company’s iOS-based CarPlay, which brings iPhone features to the touch screen control panel on a vehicle’s dashboard, rolled out in several car models this year, and Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas said it would be natural for Apple to expand beyond infotainment to the rest of the interior, particularly if driverless-car technologies begin to be more integrated within new vehicles.

“Cars could become the fourth screen, after PCs/tablets, smartphones and TVs,” Huberty said.

Apple declined to comment on what it called “rumor and speculation.”

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In a report last week, Jonas said he would not be dismissive of Apple’s automotive ambitions, calling the potential opportunity too large to ignore.

The brokerage’s calculations put the total automotive addressable market at $10 trillion, with the annual revenue potential on new vehicles amounting to roughly $1.6 trillion, compared with the current global smartphone market of $400 billion. Jonas’s argument is that if Apple were to corner just 25% of the value of the car, its revenue potential would equate to that of the entire smartphone industry today.

Shares of Apple traded up 0.2% to $128.71 in recent trade. They are up more than 71% over the past year.

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