Game Trader: Why you should buy Nintendo, Apple and Take-Two now

Asif Khan details what to do with key gaming stocks ahead of E3, why PS4 could win next-gen and how Xbox One solves non-existent problems

Asif A Khan, CFO of Virtue LLC, provides expert analysis of the stock market for anyone interested in trading video game stocks. His "Game Trader" column runs exclusively on GamesIndustry International. His latest note, written following the unveiling of the Xbox One, is below.

Changes to our ratings

I am upgrading Apple Inc. to Super Mega Buy from Buy. I am downgrading EA to Hold from Buy. I am downgrading GameStop to Do Not Buy from Buy. I am downgrading Google and Zynga to Do Not Buy from Hold. I am dropping coverage of THQ (rated Do Not Buy since the inception of the Game Trader Article), because they went bankrupt.

Super Mega Buys

Apple Inc. - AAPL

  • 6/23/10 price $270.97
  • 1/22/11 price $326.72
  • 1/31/12 price $456.48
  • 5/31/12 price $577.73
  • 5/21/13 close $439.66
  • 62.3 percent Gain since coverage initiated at Buy on 6/23/10
  • 52 Week High $705.07
  • 52 Week Low $385.10

Apple's stock chart went temporarily parabolic in September of 2012 and was incredibly overbought on relative strength indicators when it hit another resistance point at $705/share. I still believe Apple offers tremendous upside from here. In fact, I am going out on a limb here and saying that it is a Super Mega Buy. Apple's stock trades like a toilet paper company and the mainstream media constantly says that they are no longer innovating. Apple Inc. is a lot like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. If they do have an everlasting gobstopper in development, they are not going to telegraph it. At 10 times forward earnings and 0.50 PEG ratio, AAPL is incredibly cheap. They announced the most aggressive buyback in the history of corporate America and that will lead to a 15 percent decrease of the float if the share price stays here. So if their earnings and revenue don't grow at all in the next two years and the stock doesn't move, earnings per share will grow 15 percent. Even in this terrible scenario I have described, Apple is trading at a discount to that hypothetical growth.

Now what if Steve Jobs actually left them with an amazing pipeline? A number of potential revenue growth drivers exist at Apple. They most likely will get into the payments, television, and wearable computing industries in the next few years. None of this is priced into the stock at its depressed valuation. I have had the same long position in Apple since 1997, and have not sold a single share. Shareholders are being paid a nice 2.8 percent dividend to wait and see if there is one more thing left on the shelf in Cupertino.

Nintendo - NTDOY

  • 6/23/10 price $37.40
  • 1/22/11 price $34.14
  • 1/31/12 price $16.94
  • 5/31/12 price $14.32
  • 5/21/13 close $13.99
  • -21.1 percent return since the stock was upgraded to Super Mega Buy on 1/31/12
  • 52 Week High $17.75
  • 52 Week Low $11.36

Maybe if I downgrade Nintendo, the stock will go up? I have been dead wrong about this stock being a buy since the Game Trader article began in June of 2010. I would like to point out that Nintendo trades at 1.17 times book value, has turned profitable, and actually has a 2.3 percent dividend yield. Not bad for a company that is circling the drain on a media declared death watch. I suggested to my editor that we put a countdown clock for the death of Nintendo somewhere on the main page.

The company has decided to forego their flagship press conference at E3 in favor of some other smaller less flashy events. In a recent article David Cole said that Nintendo "forgot marketing 101." I am not sure if they have forgotten it or if they are just not taking as many risks on this console generation. The Wii U name is confusing to consumers. Most people still think it is just another peripheral for the original Wii, just like 3DS was misunderstood as another DS, not a new handheld system. Nintendo is being cautious with their money when it comes to marketing, focusing on Nintendo Direct instead of conventional TV ads. This is great for exciting your core group of fans, but what about the mass market appeal that the company used to be known for?

Bring back the cereal! Nintendo needs to show us that they still have the marketing chops to come up with wacky things like cereal or Pokemon cartoons. Nintendo still has great brands, but they are not being levered properly. Putting near field communications technology into the Wii U Gamepad controller without a single use of it 7 months after launch is another great example of how cautious they are being.  

Cautious? Maybe I am being too nice. Perhaps David Cole is right and they have completely forgotten how to market a must have product in the USA? I think Nintendo management is on their heels after two terrible fiscal years, and they don't want to blow it. With their recently provided lofty internal earnings projections, they can't risk wasting any money. They want to be around for the next next generation, if there is one.

Hopefully they will come out with something new at E3, not just another Mario or Zelda. If they do, these current gripes could be overshadowed by the hype of a cool, new Miyamoto intellectual property. If they don't, they could always bring back the cereal!

The Buy

Take-Two Interactive - TTWO

  • 6/23/10 price $9.57
  • 1/22/11 price $12.15
  • 1/31/12 price $15.60
  • 5/31/12 price $11.52
  • 5/21/13 close $16.07
  • 3 percent return since the stock was upgraded to a Buy from Hold on 1/31/12.
  • 52 Week High $17.54
  • 52 Week Low $7.37

Even though GTA V will be a glaring omission from the Xbox One launch lineup, I expect Take-Two to have an amazing back half of the year. GTA is a great intellectual property and it wouldn't surprise me to see another company attempt to acquire them if for some reason GTA V isn't the blockbuster I expect it will be. With a 14.8 Forward P/E and a PEG ratio below 1, it is by far the cheapest standalone 3rd party software company trading in the US stock market.


Activision Blizzard - ATVI

  • 6/23/10 price $11.21
  • 1/22/11 price $11.24
  • 1/31/12 price $12.34
  • 5/31/12 price $11.74
  • 5/21/13 close $15.57
  • 38.5 percent gain since the stock was downgraded to a Hold from Buy on 1/22/11.
  • 52 Week High $15.75
  • 52 Week Low $10.45

Did anyone else hear that yawn at the Xbox One reveal when we were force fed some diatribe on Dog mapping technology? I have said it before and I will say it again, Activision is the master of diluting intellectual property value. It remains to be seen if Call of Duty will make a graceful transition to the next generation and keep gamers addicted, but I point to Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero as examples of hugely popular franchises that Activision pounded into the mud. Call of Duty is at risk of being next, but at least they have Skylanders. The stock is not cheap at 15 times forward earnings and a PEG ratio over 2. It does pay a 1.3 percent dividend, which is not that great when you compare it to a number of better positioned tech companies.

Electronic Arts - EA

  • 6/23/10 price $15.29
  • 1/22/11 price $15.13
  • 1/31/12 price $18.58
  • 5/31/12 price $13.62
  • 5/21/13 close $21.97
  • 43.7 percent gain for those who took advantage of the Buy rating made on 6/23/10
  • 52 Week High $22.84
  • 52 Week Low $10.77

After a huge run during the time EA had been Buy rated at Game Trader, it is time to take your gains, if you bought shares. I am not saying EA is a short, just that the stock has priced in a lot of the bull case that we presented back in 2010. It also trades at 15 times forward earnings and above a 1 PEG ratio. I may give it another look if the stock comes back into the teens, but with the recent management turnover it has become a show me stock. I am downgrading it to Hold from Buy as a result. I hope some of our readers were able to take advantage of this call as a 43 percent gain in 2 years is nothing to scoff at.

Microsoft - MSFT

  • 6/23/10 price $25.31
  • 1/22/11 price $28.02
  • 1/31/12 price $29.53
  • 5/31/12 price $29.19
  • 5/21/13 close $34.85
  • 37.7 percent gain since coverage initiated at Hold on 6/23/10
  • 52 Week High $35.27
  • 52 Week Low $26.26

Xbox One solves problems that didn't exist. It addresses a market that doesn't really speak to their core demographic. So much time was spent talking about Live TV, that they forgot most of their users cut the cord years ago. I believe Xbox One is a preemptive strike by Microsoft at a non-existent Apple product (iPanel). I will reserve my full judgment of the potential of Xbox One until after E3. It is entirely possible that they will show off a game that steals the show, but if they don't Sony could be positioned very well to win this console generation. Microsoft's stock will not be saved by the Xbox One. Windows 8 has had a mediocre adoption rate, and the broader PC market is in decline. The stock is not absurdly expensive, but after its recent run I would not be a buyer. It does pay a nice safe dividend of 2.6 percent, if you are into that sort of thing.

Sony - SNE

  • 6/23/10 price $27.74
  • 1/22/11 price $34.22
  • 1/31/12 price $18.22
  • 5/31/12 price $13.24
  • 5/21/13 close $22.91
  • 25.7 percent return since we upgraded the stock to a Hold from Don't Buy on 1/31/12.
  • 52 Week High $23.10
  • 52 Week Low $9.57

As I said above, Sony's PS4 could actually win this generation. The stock has had a monster run since our upgrade to Hold from Do Not Buy, and much of it is attributable to Dan Loeb's call for a breakup. I have been saying for years that Sony is worth more broken up than it is as a giant conglomerate. They never maximized their synergies and it seems like they are finally giving the breakup consideration. They still trade at a discount to book value which means there is further upside to the stock in the event of a breakup. I don't usually buy stocks because they are looking to divest things in lieu of growth, but Sony has the tailwind of a weakening Yen behind them as well. Things may finally be turning around for this once iconic company, but I will stick with investing in the much cheaper and more hated Nintendo.

Do Not Buy

GameStop - GME

  • 6/23/10 price $18.89
  • 1/22/11 price $20.90
  • 1/31/12 price $23.36
  • 5/31/12 close $19.18
  • 5/21/13 close $36.78
  • 91.8 percent return for our readers that listened to the Buy upgrade on 5/31/12
  • 52 Week High $39.87
  • 52 Week Low $15.32

Wow, that sure was a hell of a short squeeze in GameStop. Two words to anyone who is still long, get out! There is a chance that the stock can continue to squeeze shorts a bit higher towards $50/share, but that move will be entirely technically driven. When I said to buy GME last year, it was a hated stock trading below book value. It still has a huge 46 percent short interest, but that is no reason to believe in the company's future. Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U are all making the used games industry look more and more obsolete by the day. Adding to GameStop's likely demise is increased competition from Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart. This article is called Game Trader, and if you don't take the 91.8 percent gain since our last report it is your fault. I am downgrading GameStop two notches to Do Not Buy from Buy, and I would advise those who want to short the stock to instead use put options. This will limit your risk in case the short squeeze does continue into the fall console hardware launches. I will be shocked if GameStop is still above $30/share by this time next year. I am not sure if they can adapt their business model fast enough to compete in the increasingly online world of gaming.

Google - GOOG

  • 1/22/11 price $611.83
  • 1/31/12 price $580.11
  • 5/31/12 price $580.86
  • 5/21/13 close $906.97
  • 52 Week High $909.31
  • 52 Week Low $556.52
  • 56.34 percent gain since the Hold call made on 1/31/12

When I am wrong, I admit it. I was wrong about Google. Their shenanigans in China were just a dog and pony show. They have taken huge market share in smartphones and clearly the stock should have been Buy rated. I do wonder how they can continue to grow when they are 75 percent of the smartphone market. Google Glass is not ready for primetime, the autonomous car is still being developed, and they still really haven't made a major entrance into gaming. I debated dropping coverage altogether on this stock but instead I am going to put my head on the chopping block. The Do Not Buy rating is being given to Google because I believe the stock has discounted much of the good news to come. It trades at 16.7 times forward earnings, a premium to its long term growth rate. I believe that much of its capital appreciation came from the flood of money leaving Apple over the last half a year. Google is in a similarly precarious situation as Apple was in September of 2012, and I would not want to be a buyer above $900.

Zynga - ZNGA

  • 1/31/12 price $10.49
  • 5/31/12 price $6.26
  • 5/21/13 close $3.45
  • -44.9 percent since the stock was upgraded to Hold from Do Not Buy

I tried to get cute when I upgraded Zynga to Hold from Do Not Buy last year. I should have stuck with my initial analysis, and I am downgrading it back to Do Not Buy. Zynga is a poster child for the FaceBook/App Store bubble. At one point Zynga had a larger market cap than Sony and Nintendo. Any meaningful rallies in this stock can be shorted. The bull case being made these days is that Zynga will get into online gambling; if that happens maybe I will reassess my negative investment thesis. The company is not profitable, and hasn't really told investors when they think they will return to profitability. Stay away from this company until there is a real reason to own it.


Full Disclosure:

At the time of this article Asif A. Khan, CPA, his family members and/or Virtue LLC had the following positions:

  • Long Apple
  • Long Nintendo
  • Long Take-Two Interactive (Through Call Options)
  • Short GameStop (Through Put Options)
  • Short Google (Through Put Options)

Latest comments (11)

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 5 years ago
Great read, this article pointed out things in a very, objective and down to earth way... I dont know why Nintendo is so hated now...if anything Im really looking foward for what they have in store for E3 and there are alot of games Im looking foward too.Sure they have an underpowered system. But I wouldnt count them out. They have an extensive catalog of IP.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 28th May 2013 8:45pm

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Macro tells otherwise, Entire markets and economies hang by a thread now. Abeconomics is turning into a disaster, the Fed is whispering about winding down QE infinity, Europes a mess, China's lies are finally becoming apparent, Bubbles everywhere and your talking about investing in equities? First of all who invest anymore? HFT are 80% of all trades, and are held for what? a second or two? buy and hold is for muppets and suckers.

of course these are just opinions from a guy who left wall street long ago., but I will tell you this, never listen to someone about investing who has skin in the game, they dont care if you make money, they are in the business of making money off of you.

These investment journals etc are like late night infomercials who tell you how to make money doing this or that, as if you really could make that much money doing it, like they would share the idea with you.
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Adam Coate CEO & Founder, Coate Games5 years ago
Ah yes, Take Two is about to release GTA V soon, so buy it...then sell it quick. Not sure what prospects you see in Nintendo. Wii U is DOA. Nintendo's marketing days have been gone since the NES. It has been riding on that cool factor ever since. The Wii's marketing tactic was that everyone had to have one and couldn't. It had nothing to do with what ads were on tv. Everyone gives so much credit to Nintendo for the Wii, but they actually just took a risk on tech that Microsoft and Sony both passed up on first.

ActiBlizzard is a huge implosion waiting to happen. I love how they don't see a need to expand into mobile, free 2 play, etc since they have CoD and WoW to fall back on. Possibly the most short-sighted publisher in the business.

EA actually looks like a decent buy. They have definitely shown big growth several times in the past. But I think most people in the game industry would rather risk their money on their own products, not on some dinosaur's.
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Show all comments (11)
Asif A. Khan, CPA Financial Reporter 5 years ago
As always, I want to thank Eurogamer, GamesIndustry International, John and James for giving me a shot at writing for you guys.

@Todd Weidner

I provide an analysis of each of my calls on a percent return basis. I believe in holding myself accountable. While I agree that the macroeconomic environment is messy, especially in Asia and Europe, there has always been secular growth stories in the stock market. I only rate 3 out of 10 stocks at Buy or higher which is hardly a raging bull call to blindly buy all equities. Regarding High Frequency Trading, I am a firm believer that you have to trade the market you have and not the market you want. I believe that we do live in a millisecond culture, but fundamental analysis of individual companies from the bottom up can trump short term volatility if you have the patience. I write this column to help people who do want to invest, if you think I am a muppet then that is your opinion. I am not going to make any money off of the readers of this article. I simply provide my opinions on stocks, and if you listened to some of my calls, you would be making money. I want readers to do their own homework, and maybe my articles can be a launchpad for their own investment ideas. There has to be a reason that GamesIndustry International continues to ask me to write these articles. I appreciate your cynicism, and I wish you luck in creating your own wealth. I disclose all my conflicts of interest, so yes I have skin in the game. I am not a broker, dealer, investment advisor, or a hedge fund manager seeking investors. I manage my own wealth and stocks are my investment vehicle of choice.

@Adam Coate

Yes, Take-Two is definitely a trade around the release of GTA V. That is primarily why I am using call options. Nintendo is a valuation call more than anything. They have a mountain of cash, what I still believe is undervalued intellectual property, and the break the glass plan of becoming a third party developer is still there if they have to use it. This series of articles is not a referendum saying that one should only invest in publicly traded gaming companies and not try to be an entrepreneur. I completely understand the argument of the opportunity cost of owning stocks versus investing in your own company. If you have limited resources, put your money behind your best idea. For the countless people who do own stocks, I believe individual stock ownership is much better than owning the indexes or mutual funds. I have created much wealth for myself and my family investing in publicly traded companies and I enjoy sharing my opinions.
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I like the way this article is written and analysed and told. No waffle. Great!
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 5 years ago
Is it just me or does Activision-Blizzard's stock seem extremely low for how successful they've been over the last 6+ years?
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I think Acti-Blizz have perhaps reached near/over their apex, and as such the stock is not rated as much as it used to be
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game5 years ago
That depends on how many Act-Blizz shares there actually are.
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Asif A. Khan, CPA Financial Reporter 5 years ago
@Paul Jace

You make a good point. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was released on November 5, 2007. The stock was trading around $10-11 share. The stock peaked in July of 2008 at $19.28/share. They have released quite a few COD titles since then and really have not a lot to show for it. This has a lot to do with the slowing of World of Warcraft's momentum and their other franchises declining. Adding to this was the financial crisis of 2008-9 which knocked the share price down to $8.14 in January of 2009. The stock is sitting at $15.61/share with a market capitalization of $17.44 Billion. They have a larger market capitalization than Nintendo, EA, Take-Two, and Ubisoft. I can see your point when you say that they are extremely low considering the success of COD, but they have gained 50% in that time period which translates to about $5 Billion of capital appreciation. I wouldn't say they are cheap by any stretch of the imagination. It is important to note that share price by itself is meaningless. You have to look at the float (how many shares are outstanding), the price to earnings ratio, and price to earnings relative to growth to get a good idea of how a company is really being valued.

@ Andrew Goodchild

There are currently 1.12 Billion shares of ATVI outstanding.

@ Dr. Chee Ming Wong

I am glad you liked the article. I think it is too early to tell if ATVI has peaked, although there are cracks forming in the bull thesis. Vivendi is still trying to divest their stake in the company and has found no willing buyers. The technicals on the chart do make me wonder if Activision-Blizzard can ride some of this E3 momentum back to its all time high of $19.28/share. They do have Destiny coming out with Bungie, so there are some catalysts out there.
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University5 years ago
Great read, Asif. I look forward to seeing more in the future. It'll be interesting to see where the console manufacturers stand next April, with Wii U's second Christmas and the launches of PS4 and Xbox One presumably over and done with.
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Dan Howdle Head of Content, Existent5 years ago
Ditto. Great article. Want to see more of these please, Asif.
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