By Emily Bary
Smart home and video gaming are areas where Apple might consider making a transformative deal
Apple Inc. has about $130 billion in net cash on its balance sheet and a goal of becoming net-cash neutral. That's prompted some on Wall Street to speculate that the company might make a transformative acquisition, especially as it faces challenges with its core device business.
"While investors hardly seem to be complaining about the massive buyback pace (), including about $73 billion last year, we believe they do hope the firm uses its balance sheet strength to insulate the business against often-seen disruptions in the technology landscape, some of which Apple (AAPL) itself has driven in the past," wrote J.P. Morgan's Samik Chatterjee. He thinks smart-home speakers, video games and video content represent the best target areas for the smartphone giant.
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Sonos Inc. shares are up 2.7% in premarket trading after Chatterjee floated the maker of smart speakers as a good "strategic fit" for Apple.
"Sonos would give Apple access to high income households to play catch up with Amazon and Google in the home," he said in a Monday note to clients. The company has strong customer loyalty and has been successful in driving repeat purchases, suggesting to Chatterjee that Sonos is better positioned than peers like Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and Alphabet Inc.'s (GOOGL) Google to create a "seamless and holistic smart-home ecosystem."
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He also calls the video-game sector appealing, given that it's rapidly moving to mobile and presents opportunities for synergies with Apple's existing augmented-reality and virtual-reality efforts. Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI) seems like a good fit in his view, because the company makes games that work across a variety of platforms and device types. The publisher has greater exposure to mobile gaming than peer Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), and it's less concentrated on sports titles than EA is.
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Alas, some "strategic fits" are merely pipe dreams. Chatterjee argued that Apple could look to make a move in the video-content space, as it's currently far behind peers in terms of original programming and may want more advertising opportunities in the future. While he thinks that Netflix would be a nice complement to Apple's existing business, he concedes that this is a "less realistic" option since the company is "an unlikely seller for a modest premium." Netflix currently has a market value of nearly $150 billion.
Apple shares have fallen 20% over the past three months, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average has slipped 0.8%.
-Emily Bary; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 04, 2019 09:37 ET (14:37 GMT)
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