Apple surges on latest upgrade

Apple Computer Inc. got an upgrade from BancBoston Robertson Stephens Thursday, which changed its rating from "long term attractive" to "buy," and set their 12-month price target to $75 per share.

Shares in Apple rocketed 8 percent on the news, up 4 3/16 to 54 1/16, past their 52-week high of 50 3/4.

"There's a lot of intrinsic value, they're not being valued correctly in the market," said Alex Mou, an analyst at BancBoston Robertson Stephens in the U.S. "The company has a lot of momentum, the product line looks strong," and they've got a strong balance sheet, he added. BancBoston Robertson Stephens raised estimates from $2.75 to $2.80 a share for fiscal 1999 and from $2.86 to $3 a share for fiscal 2000. Nineteen analysts pooled by First Call expect year-end earnings to be $2.78 a share. They also predict third quarter earnings, to be reported next Wednesday, to come in at 64 bents a share.

Mou also said he thinks "the myth of Apple, its look, touch, and software" will continue to grow its loyal followers. He sees Apple expanding its share in the consumer market, which is currently estimated at 31 percent, and continuing to expand its corporate and educational market shares. He does see a comeback in the works, though it may take a while. "It took IBM three years to come back," Mou said.

Though Apple has preened its performance for the last four quarters it still isn't the "strong buy" in most analysts' eyes. Out of 21 analysts covering the stock, only 7 rate it a "strong buy," while 9 rate it a "hold", and 5 a "buy." "We believe Apple is well positioned for the September quarter, with a strong product lineup following a solid June quarter," said Alex Mou and David Niles in a report issued Thursday. "We expect that the software portfolio will provide upside to earnings and margins with the release of Sonata in the autumn and Mac OS X (server software) early next year,'' the report added.

On June 1, Salomon Smith Barney also upped its rating from "neutral" to "buy."

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