Apple’s stock price doesn’t reflect the 12% upside offered by its growing autonomous-vehicle ambitions, UBS says

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Apple’s current stock price doesn’t reflect the tech giant’s budding autonomous-vehicle ambitions, according to a team of UBS equity analysts led by David Vogt.

The analysts have a price target of $142 for Apple, a roughly 12% gain from current levels. In a recent note, the analysts said their price target reflects Apple’s autonomous vehicle opportunity.

Apple has been developing autonomous vehicle technology for years but has never confirmed it’s working on a car. In a recent interview, CEO Tim Cook hinted that Apple was working on an electric-vehicle project – but said many of Apple’s ideas “never see the light of day.”

But UBS noted that there are increasing signs that Apple is working on autonomous vehicle technology. For example, Apple was recently granted a patent for VoxelNet, a technology that could be used for AVs, the analysts said.

“Although Apple has not made a formal announcement yet, we believe the series of patents granted around AV further demonstrates Apple is allocating significant resources to projects that have ‘optionality’ but not reflected in the shares,” they said.

UBS also noted that Apple’s Voxel patent file makes a brief mention that the technology involves processors that simulate a vehicle making a turn, a further hint that the company is diving into self-driving cars.

“Although the application could have a myriad of uses, we find the use of the word ‘vehicle’ in the patent claim along with prior research published by Apple as important clues around the company’s commercial intentions,” said UBS.

Apple rose as much as 1.6% on Thursday, though the stock is down roughly 2.5% year-to-date as investors have taken profits from mega-cap technology names that dominated in 2020.

“Apple currently trades at 28x NTM P/E, in-line with its trailing one year average,” said UBS. “However, we believe a sum-of-the-parts (SOTP) framework is more appropriate going forward given auto optionality. As such, our price target of $142 reflects not only a value for Apple’s “Core” of ~$128 but also an evenly-weighted probability value of Apple’s auto opportunity ($14/share) in our SOTP analysis.”

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