Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is debatably the most popular stock on the market. The hegemonic technology company has nestled its way into every aspect of life, from cell phones, to TV, to music. Who would dare say the stock isn’t going anywhere but up? The answer is Adnaan Ahmad of Berenberg Bank, who has been waving the red flag against the tech giant for years. He has just payed the price of his job for doing so.
Fortune revealed Ahmad’s release from Berenberg today. The analyst acknowledged in a note to Philip Elmer-DeWitt of Fortune, “I have strived to be as honest, independent and give a high level of integrity in my research as possible throughout my career. As many of you know, my views have been controversial in the global tech space and I have taken a fair amount of abuse…”
There are currently an overwhelming 25 analysts who have recommended to Buy shares of AAPL in the last three months. In the same time period, 6 analysts have cautioned to the point of staying neutral, but no analyst, other than Ahmad, has gone as far as to recommend selling. Analysts are bullish for a number of reasons, ranging from iPhones flying off the shelves to growth in China.
However, few analysts have acknowledged that the unbeatable tech giant has actually fallen over 5% in the last 12 months, and fallen more than 15% in the last six months alone. Despite the dip, the average 12-month price target between the 31 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months is flying high at $146.59; a 37% upside from current levels.
And then we have Ahmad, who initially warned against Apple in 2013 when he cut his rating from Buy to Sell and slashed his price target from $800 to $360. At the time, the analyst believed that Apple was “obviously in a dilemma” in its attempt to sell low-end smartphones. The analyst continued to take aim at Apple, dismissing investors’ hopes in April 2014 that Apple’s P/E ratio would benefit from new devices.
Fast forward to January 2015 when the analyst reiterated a Sell rating with a $60 price target, this time taking aim at the iPhone 6. Ahmad explained that the iPhone 6 series with larger screens and longer battery life would deter users from upgrading more frequently. He commented, “In our opinion, this is not good news for Apple’s iPhone business… 2016 could be an absolutely treacherous year for iPhone volumes and Apple’s earnings, given the disproportionate revenue and margin impact of this product.”
In the last six months, the analyst has stressed the risk of Apple slowly becoming a single product company as the iPhone continues to dominate revenue. He dismisses the Apple Watch, noting that this new product line will not be strong enough to make up the difference. Ahmad has also warned investors against Apple’s gross profit margin, explaining, “I think group gross margins have or will peak again soon and that is the next debate on the world’s largest market cap stock. Thoughts and abuse welcome as always.”
Now that the lone bearish Apple analyst has been silenced, who will raise the red flag on the unstoppable tech giant?