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Apple Market Cap Hits $600 Billion

By BY PETER SVENSSON 04/10/12 05:18 PM ET AP

Apple Market Cap

NEW YORK — Apple, already the world's most valuable company, hit the $600 billion level for the first time Tuesday.

Only one other company has been worth $600 billion – Apple's old sparring partner Microsoft Corp. It reached that valuation for 13 trading days around the turn of the millennium, at the peak of the technology stock mania.

At its highest level, on Dec. 30, 1999, Microsoft's valuation was $619 billion. It's now worth about $255 billion.

General Electric Co. came just short of reaching a $600 billion valuation in August 2000.

Apple shares hit $644 in morning trading, up 1.2 percent from Monday's close. At that price, the entire company was worth $600.4 billion. By midday, the shares had retreated. The stock closed at $628.44, down 1.2 percent from the day before, putting the value below $600 billion again.

Apple's stock is up nearly 60 percent since the start of the year, an indication that investors are catching up to what analysts have been saying for a while: Despite its enormous market capitalization, Apple's stock has been undervalued relative to its even more enormous profits.

The rally has also been fueled by the report of another blow-out holiday quarter, and the announcement that Apple will start putting its $97.6 billion cash hoard to use this summer by paying a dividend and buying back shares.

Apple's market capitalization hit $500 billion on Feb. 29. That, in itself, was a rare achievement: Only five other U.S. companies have ever been worth that much.

Apple's market capitalization is still well below Microsoft's 1999 record if inflation is taken into account. The $619 billion then becomes $846 billion.

Many analysts believe Apple can get there, though. Last week, Brian White of Topeka Capital Markets was the first to set a stock price target of more than $800, with a goal of $1,001. That target implies a market capitalization of $932 billion.

White believes Apple will expand its reach this year by starting to sell the iPhone through China Mobile, that country's largest phone company, and by launching a TV set. Apple hasn't confirmed either piece of speculation.

In a rare contrarian opinion, BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk downgraded Apple from "Buy" to "Hold" on Monday, saying its profit margins are unsustainable. Phone companies are seeing the profits sapped by the subsidies they pay for the iPhone, he notes, and are set to curb their upgrade policies and otherwise make it harder for people to trade up to the newest model. That effect will hardly be visible when Apple reports results for the most recent quarter in two weeks, Piecyk believes, but he said it will become more apparent later this year.

China's largest oil company, PetroChina, was briefly worth $1 trillion after it listed on the Shanghai stock exchange in 2007, but only based on its price on that exchange. Its shares also trade in Hong Kong and on the New York Stock Exchange. Based on trading there, its market capitalization has never reached $500 billion.

Check out the slideshow (below) to see some surprising things Apple's worth more than.
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  • 600 Instagrams

    Facebook announced on April 9 that it will acquire popular photo-sharing app Instagram <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/instagram-facebook-acquisition_n_1412623.html?ref=technology" target="_hplink">for about $1 billion dollars</a>.

  • The Entire U.S. Retail Sector

    <a href="http://www.zerohedge.com/news/its-official-apple-now-bigger-entire-us-retail-sector" target="_hplink">ZeroHedge notes that when Apple's market cap surpassed $542 billion</a>, Apple was worth more than the entire U.S. retail sector.

  • The Combined GDPs of Iraq, North Korea, Vietnam, Puerto Rico, and New Zealand

    Even the combined estimated 2011 GDPs of <a href="https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/iz.html" target="_hplink">Iraq</a> ($108.6 billion), <a href="https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kn.html" target="_hplink">North Korea</a> ($28 billion), <a href="https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/vm.html" target="_hplink">Vietnam</a> ($121.6 billion), <a href="https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rq.html" target="_hplink">Puerto Rico</a> ($93.52 billion), and <a href="https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/nz.html" target="_hplink">New Zealand</a> ($168.8 billion) aren't worth more than Apple.

  • The Worldwide Illegal Drug Trade

    <a href="http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/illegal-drugs-trade-now-worth-119092" target="_hplink">According to The Daily Mirror</a>, as of March of last year, the world's entire illegal drug trade was worth an estimated £200billion, or about $314.7 billion. [Hat Tip: <a href="http://thingsappleisworthmorethan.tumblr.com/" target="_hplink">Downtown Josh Brown on ThingsAppleIsWorthMoreThan.tumblr.com</a>]

  • Google and Microsoft Combined

    Apple is also now worth more than fellow tech giants <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/09/apple-market-cap-google-microsoft_n_1266101.html" target="_hplink">Google and Microsoft</a> put together. Their current market caps are at approximately $202 billion and $275.3 billion, respectively, at time of writing. GeekWire notes that Apple's revenue in the final quarter of 2011 was a staggering $46.3 billion, equal to the <a href="http://www.geekwire.com/2012/apples-quarterly-revenue-yahoos-googles-microsoft" target="_hplink"> "combined quarterly revenue of one Microsoft ($20.89 billon); two Googles ($10.5 billion); and three Yahoos ($1.17 billion)."</a>

  • More Than 600 Million iPads

    Apple is worth more than 600 million Wifi and 4G-equipped 64GB iPads, which <a href="http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/shop_ipad/family/ipad" target="_hplink">cost $899 each</a>.

  • 350 Space Shuttle Endeavours

    NASA's space shuttle Endeavour, which completed its final flight <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/01/space-shuttle-endeavour-m_n_869528.html" target="_hplink">in June of last year</a>, cost $1.7 billion to build, <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/about/information/shuttle_faq.html#1" target="_hplink">according to NASA.</a> It would take more than 350 space shuttle Endeavours to add up to one Apple. <a href="http://www.gottabemobile.com/2012/02/29/three-things-apple-is-worth-more-than-aapl/" target="_hplink">GottaBeMobile also notes Apple is worth far more than the Apollo Space Program</a>, which landed the first human on the moon: <blockquote>Adjusted for inflation, the entire Apollo Space Program cost $145 - $170 billion dollars. Even at $170 billion, that's still less than half of what Apple is worth. We could fund the entire Apollo program twice, and still not spend as much money as Apple is worth.</blockquote>

  • 575 NFL Football Teams

    <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2011/09/07/the-nfls-most-valuable-teams/" target="_hplink">According to Forbes</a>, as of September 2011, the average National Football League team was worth about $1.04 billion, which means it would take more than 575 of them to add up to Apple's worth. [Hat Tip: <a href="http://thingsappleisworthmorethan.tumblr.com/" target="_hplink">Downtown Josh Brown on ThingsAppleIsWorthMoreThan.tumblr.com</a>]

  • Exxon, Perviously America's Most Valuable Company

    Apple <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/25/apple-passes-exxon-market-cap_n_1231074.html" target="_hplink">surpassed Exxon</a> as the country's most valuable company, in terms of market cap, back in January. When Apple's value hit $600 billion, it was worth roughly $200 billion more than the oil giant.

  • The U.S. Government's Cash Holdings

    The U.S. government's <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2011-07-29/tech/apple.cash.government_1_ceo-jobs-apple-cash-balance?_s=PM:TECH" target="_hplink">cash holdings are around $73 billion</a>, meaning the U.S. couldn't afford Apple, which is worth around seven times as much as all the cash in the country's coffers. Apple actually has far more cash on hand than the U.S. government: <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2012/01/25/technology/thebuzz/index.htm?section=money_topstories" target="_hplink">The company announced in January that it had amassed over $96 billion in cash</a>.

  • More Than 30 Mark Zuckerbergs, Nearly 10 Bill Gates

    As of March 2012, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had a net worth of <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/mark-zuckerberg/" target="_hplink">$17.5 billion, according to Forbes</a>. That means it'd take more than 30 of him to equal Apple's worth. Apple is also worth almost 10 Bill Gates,<a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/bill-gates/" target="_hplink"> who has a net worth of approximately $61 billion.</a>

  • ALSO ON THE HUFFINGTON POST

    Apple's announcement of its first dividend since 1995 and a $10bn stock buyback plan has been well-received.

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