Apple: How It Could Hit $1,001 (Update 2)

Tickers in this article: AAPL CHA CHL T VZ

Updated from 12:28 p.m. EST to provide analyst comments regarding valuation in the fourteenth paragraph.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Apple shares have significantly more room to grow; nearly 66% more, according to one analyst.

Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets initiated coverage of the tech giant with a Buy rating and a $1,001 price target on Monday, as he believes "Apple fever is spreading like a wildfire around the world and we see no end in sight to this trend."

This is not the first time an analyst has said Apple shares could approach $1,000 per share, as Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty made a case for the lofty share price in mid-March.

White noted Apple's continued expansion into higher-speed devices, such as the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) iPad, and the eventual LTE iPhone, continued expansion in China, and the launch of an Apple-branded television set as the primary reasons for share price appreciation.

The analyst places heavy importance on Apple expanding its product offering to include LTE, as consumers see the benefit of high-speed offerings. White believes Apple is poised "to take advantage of the shift from 3G to 4G LTE networks, providing an incremental driver for consumers to upgrade to the new iPad and eventually the iPhone 5 later this year."

Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu says that having LTE on the iPad will be a big driver of sales, also providing an iPhone boost. "We believe this significant refresh will likely help drive higher iPad sales and help further differentiate from arguably the only real competitor in the market, Amazon's Kindle Fire, and not to mention the myriad of Google Android offerings out there," Wu wrote in a March research note. The analyst rates Apple a buy with a $740 price target. Apple currently sells an LTE iPad in America on both AT&T and Verizon's networks.

Then there's Apple's expansion into China. CEO Tim Cook described demand for the iPhone in China as "staggering" on the company's first-quarter earnings call. Topeka Capital Markets' White noted China could potentially reach 230 million 3G subscribers by the end of the year, becoming "one of the wonders of the technology world."

The analyst notes that an eventual deal with China Mobile could be the big driver of iPhone sales. China Mobile has 66% of the country's market share for wireless subscribers, but does not officially offer the iPhone currently. There are a reported 5 million "illegal" iPhones on China Mobile's network.

Apple recently signed an agreement with China Telecom to expand the iPhone's presence in China. White believes that China Mobile will begin to aggressively ramp up its 4G TD-LTE network, and officially be able to offer the iPhone over the next year.

The launch of an Apple-branded television set, which White calls "iTV," could be the next major product catalyst for the Cupertino, Calif.-based firm. Speculation about a new Apple TV offering has run rampant following the late Steve Jobs' comments about the technology in his biography. "It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it," Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson.

White notes the recent refresh of Apple's set-top box, Apple TV, is a step towards bringing the "iTV." "We believe the pieces are in place for a launch over the next year, driving an entirely new $100 billion market opportunity, while further strengthening the Company's digital grid and providing customers with a new TV experience," he wrote.

Apple's recently announced dividend and buyback could drive the share price higher, as it opens up the shares to a new class of investors, White notes. "We expect this move to attract new investors to the Apple story and also reward existing shareholders." Even with the announcements, White still expects Apple to have nearly $155 billion in cash by the end of fiscal year 2013, and $191 billion in fiscal 2014.

Apple announced it would be returning $45 billion to shareholders over a period of three years, through buybacks and dividends.

Nearly two-thirds of the more than 3400 respondents to a recent poll conducted by TheStreet said that Apple will hit $1,000 per share within the next two or three years. Only 2.7% of respondents believe Apple will see $1,000 in the next six months, and 8.5% of those who voted expected Apple will hit the mark sometime this year.

As Apple's earnings have grown, its earnings multiple has compressed. White notes shares are currently trading around 12 times forward earnings, down from the "mid-20 multiple" seen during 2006 to 2010. This comes despite strong momentum from the iPhone and new growth opportunities.

White believes Apple has significantly more room to the upside. "In our view, Apple's valuation does not reflect the growth the Company has been able to deliver in recent years, nor the growth we expect in the future. We believe Apple's multiple has room for expansion as investors have tangible evidence that the Company can deliver strong results under Tim Cook."

From recent comments by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, to Morgan Stanley's prediction, and now White's forecast, there's increasing chatter about Apple and $1,000.

Apple is growing at such leaps and bounds, $1,000 per share seems almost inevitable, as long as the company continues to execute on its plan. Not bad for a company that started out of a garage.

Interested in more on Apple? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

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--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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Tickers in this article: AAPL CHA CHL T VZ