Apple Briefly Passes Exxon as World's #1 Company

Apple briefly surged past Exxon Mobil as the world's biggest company today—and many investors believe it's still cheap.

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Apple reported earnings on Tuesday that blew past analysts’ expectations as the tech juggernaut sold an astounding 37 million iPhones during the last quarter.

At its intraday high price Wednesday, Apple’s market value reached $423.7 billion, up eight percent from $391.9 billion a day earlier.

That pushed it past Exxon Mobil’s market capitalization, which was $416.5 billion at its high during the session, though the oil giant closed the day slightly higher than Apple.

Apple has “$98 billion in cash, 116 percent EPS growth, and a depressed valuation,” wrote Goldman Sachs analyst Bill Shope, who raised his 12-month forecast on the shares to $600 from $550. “Our target price continues to be based on a 15 multiple on our revised 2012 EPS estimate.”


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Along with sporting a quite reasonable price-earnings ratio, analysts and investors also expect Apple to declare a dividend for the first time this year, making the shares even more attractive.

After Apple and Exxon, there is a big drop off in size for the biggest publicly-traded companies in the world.

Beijing-based PetroChina comes in third at about $270 billion, followed by Microsoft , worth $245 billion.

Fourth-quarter iPhone shipments topped even the highest estimate on Wall Street: a 33 million estimate from Jefferies. iPad, Mac, iPod sales all exceeded consensus analysts’ expectations, along with the company’s gross margin, coming in at almost 45 percent.

“The company trades at 11 times this year earnings, which are expected to grow more than 40 percent,” said Paul Hickey of Bespoke Investment Group. “It’s certainly hard to take the other side of the argument.”

Apple surpassed Exxon in market value briefly last August, only to fall back as investors worried about the future of the company in the wake of Steve Jobs’ death. Others simply sold the stock to raise funds amid a breakout in the European credit crisis.

At the close of trading, Apple fell again to second place, with a market capitalization of $416.3 billion, compared to $418 billion for Exxon.

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