Apple investors could be excused for feeling on top of the world. Another blowout quarter has sent the stock booming to another all-time high. The iPad seems to be a success. Everything the company touches seems to turn to gold.

Savor the moment, by all means. But don’t get complacent. If you’re an Apple shareholder, here are seven things to be concerned about-and one thing you can do about it.

1. Apple’s good-but not that good. It’s just that the competition is so bad. Nokia, Microsoft, Samsung, Palm: From smartphones to Internet tablets to computers, it’s hard to believe so many big companies have blown it so badly. And they’ve committed mainly unforced errors, such as terrible user interfaces. I bought a non-iPod MP3 player the other day. It’s great … except making playlists is nearly impossible.

As long as the competition acts like this, Apple will keep winning. But its success owes less to the genius of Apple than the incompetence of everyone else. And that’s something you can’t control.

2. Apple fatigue. Was anything so ridiculous as the coverage of the new iPad? A computer company launched a new computer. Time and Newsweek put it on the cover, for heaven’s sake, complete with fawning copy from the likes of Stephen Fry. A lot of people are getting absolutely fed up with this circus. Fashions come, but fashions go. Is Apple becoming overexposed? Right now Steve Jobs could sell his old underwear for $200 a pair (the ‘iPants’), and the sheep would line up at your local Apple store. If this mania lasts, it will be a first in human history.

3. The share price. At $260, Apple’s stock price has more than doubled in a year. Amateur investors say, ‘It’s going up.’ Present tense. Serious investors say, more accurately: ‘It has gone up.’ Past tense. No one knows the future. And the more it rises, the less attractive it gets. It’s now 20 times annual cash flow and 5 and a half times annual sales. At $235 billion, the company is being valued at more than Sony, Research In Motion, Dell, Motorola, Nokia, HTC, SanDisk and Palm … put together. That assumes a lot.

4. Steve Jobs’s ego. I don’t care how much of a genius he is: Nobody is perfect. Yet Mr. Jobs has been subject to extravagant cheerleading, and it’s not as if he was overendowed with a sense of humility to begin with. Bottom line: If and when he makes mistakes, who is going to stop him? A small but telling example: One thing keeping Apple from lots of extra iPhone sales to business users is that Mr. Jobs, for some reason, has a thing against keyboards. There’s no business reason for it. It’s a silly, unforced error.

5. The cellular networks. At what point will they stop giving away the store? Right now they’re paying most of the cost of each new iPhone, and under-charging for the data plans too. That’s great for customers and great for Apple, and bad for the networks. The iPhone is an expensive data hog that soaks up airtime, and there’s always a risk the networks will start playing tougher. Verizon, which lost out to AT&T three years ago for the right to carry the iPhone in the US, doesn’t seem to be suffering as a result. Its investors have done no worse than those of AT&T. And its data traffic just jumped 20%, even without the Apple phone.

6. Apple backlash. As the competition forfeits game after game, Apple is starting to dominate industries from cell phones and games to music and media. Now it looks like it wants to dominate ebooks too. But if Ken Auletta’s account in the latest New Yorker is correct, Apple’s game plan to defeat Amazon means teaming up with book publishers-and that may mean higher book prices for consumers. How will consumers react? And what will that do for Apple’s ‘friendly,’ rebel image? Anyway, you can’t play the underdog when you’re the third-biggest company in the world by market value. Apple is already worth more than General Electric, Wal-Mart, Chevron or Procter & Gamble. It is worth nearly as much as Microsoft. At some point it starts to look like the Big Brother it once vilified. It may even look like the new Microsoft.

7. Steve Jobs’s health. This is the ‘ick’ issue. But Apple cheerleaders can’t have it both ways. They can’t hail Steve Jobs as a visionary genius and the world’s greatest CEO, and then say it’s none of shareholders’ business whether he will still be running the company in three years’ time. It’s only a year since he had a liver transplant, and investors can hardly feel confident they got all the relevant information clearly and early. We all hope Mr. Jobs enjoys the best of health and lives to a ripe old age. But he still looks worryingly thin. This is something for investors to keep an eye on.

Some of these are issues that could erupt into problems quickly. Others, if they do emerge, would take more time. But if you’re a nervous Apple investor, what are your alternatives? Sure you could sell some stock and take your profits. But if you don’t want to get off this train quite yet, here’s another idea: You could buy some insurance using ‘put’ options. These pay out if the stock falls. So for $19 you can buy $200 puts, good until January 2012. These will limit your downside on the stock to $200. But if Apple keeps booming upwards, all you can lose is the $19.

Brett Arends

苹果股东不应太得意的七大原因

苹果公司(Apple)的投资者们感觉志得意满,这可以理解。毕竟,又一个季度的强劲业绩,让苹果的股价涨到了新的历史最高,而iPad似乎也取得了成功。这家公司不论干什么,似乎都能点石成金。

想方设法地享受这个时刻吧,但不要忘乎所以。如果你是苹果公司的股东,下面就是七件需要关注的事情,以及一条可以采取的措施。

Reuters
苹果公司CEO乔布斯
1.苹果很好,但也不是其股价反映的那样好,只不过是因为竞争对手太差。诺基亚(Nokia)、微软(Microsoft)、三星(Samsung)、Palm,从智能手机到互联网平板机再到电脑,很难相信这么多大公司都做得一塌糊涂。而且它们犯下的大部分错误都如此明显,比如把用户界面搞得很差。前些天我买了一部不是iPod的MP3,机子很不错,只是呢,要在上面定制播放次序几乎是不可能的。

只要竞争对手们的表现就这个样子,苹果公司就会继续胜出,但其成功更多地不是缘于它自己的本事,而是其他人的无能。而这又是你无法控制的一种情况。

2.对苹果的审美疲劳。有什么比媒体对新产品iPad的报道更加荒谬的吗?不过是一家电脑公司推出了一款新电脑而已,《时代》(Time)和《新闻周刊》(Newsweek)却把它放上了封面,全是弗莱(Stephen Fry)之流写的马屁文章。很多人肯定已经厌烦了这种表演。潮流有来也有去,苹果公司是不是已经曝光过度了?照目前的架势,乔布斯(Steve Jobs)连他的旧内裤都可以冠个iPants的名字出售,要价200美元一条,苹果信徒肯定也会在当地的苹果专卖店里排队购买。如果这股狂热能够维持下去,那将会开人类历史之先河。

3.高企的股价。苹果的股价在一年以来翻了一倍多,达到现在的260美元。业余投资者说:“它在上涨。”这是现在时。严肃投资者更准确地说:“它已经上涨。”过去时。但没人知道将来怎样。而且股价涨得越高,其吸引力就越低。苹果公司现在的市值是其年度现金流的20倍,是年度销售收入的5.5倍,整个公司的市值为2,350亿美元,高于索尼、Research In Motion、戴尔(Dell)、摩托罗拉(Motorola)、诺基亚、宏达国际(HTC)、晟碟(SanDisk)和Palm的市值──的总和,这一点这非常值得注意。

4.乔布斯的自负。我不关心他是个多大的天才,毕竟人无完人。但乔布斯受到了过分的吹捧,而他自己似乎也不怎么谦虚。总之,如果他犯了错,谁来阻止他?一个很小但很有警示性的例子是:苹果iPhone针对商业用户的销售未能大幅提升,一个原因就在于乔布斯不知为什么就不喜欢有键盘。从商业上来说,不带键盘是没有道理的,是一个愚蠢而不必要的错误。

5.手机网络运营商。手机网络运营商们什么时候会不再做亏本生意?目前它们支付了每部新iPhone的大部分成本,数据套餐的收费也非常低廉。这对用户和苹果公司来说都是好事,对运营商来说则不然。iPhone的数据使用量相当大,并占用了大量通话时间,而运营商开始变得更加强硬的可能性始终存在。Verizon三年前把iPhone的美国运营权输给了美国电话电报公司(AT&T),但现在似乎也没有因此而出现了什么困难,其投资者获得的回报也不比AT&T的投资者差。在没有iPhone的情况下,Verizon的数据流量照样实现了20%的跃升。

6.当苹果成为老大。随着竞争对手一次次输掉,苹果正开始在手机、游戏、音乐、媒体等多个行业占据主导地位。在电子书阅读器领域,现在它似乎也想占据支配性地位。但是,如果说奥莱塔(Ken Auletta)在最新一期《纽约客》杂志(New Yorker)中所述无误的话,苹果打败亚马逊(Amazon)的策略就是同图书出版商结盟,而这对消费者来说,或许意味着要付出更加高昂的书价。在这种情况下,消费者们会怎样反应?苹果公司“友好”、反叛的形象会受到什么影响?当你是世界市值第三的公司时,不管怎么说,你是不可能再扮演弱者的。苹果的市值已经超过通用电气(General Electric)、沃尔玛(Wal-Mart)、雪佛龙(Chevron)和宝洁(Procter & Gamble),几乎与微软持平。在某种程度上,它给人的感觉开始像其曾经贬斥的“老大哥”,甚至有可能像又一家微软。

7.乔布斯的健康。这是一个“令人不快”的问题,但苹果公司的拉拉队们不应左右逢源。不能一方面把乔布斯吹捧成一位具有远见卓识的天才、世界最卓越的CEO,另一方面又说,三年后乔布斯是否仍然主持公司的运营对股东丝毫没有影响。乔布斯做肝脏移植手术距今只有一年,而投资者很难觉得自己是把所有相关信息都清晰、及时地了解到了。我们都希望乔布斯身体健康,寿比南山,但他看起来仍然瘦得让人担心。这是投资者应当关注的一个事情。

上述问题中,一些问题有可能很快就变成麻烦,其他问题如果要出现的话,则需要待以更长的时日。但如果你是一位不安的苹果投资者,你准备采取什么样的替代措施?当然你可以出售一些股票落袋为安,但如果你还不想弃苹果这趟列车而去,这里有另外一个主意。你可以买一些看跌期权。如果苹果股价下跌,这些期权会给你带来回报。也就是说,你可以用19美元的价格买进执行价为200美元的看跌期权合约,到期时间在2012年1月。这种期权将把你卖出股票的最低价控制在200美元,而如果苹果股价继续攀升,你所有的损失一共也就是那19美元。

Brett Arends

(编者按:本文作者Brett Arends是《华尔街日报》网络版专栏作家,他的专栏《投资回报》帮助投资者分析最新时事并做出相应投资决定。)

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