August 20, 2012: Apple passes a financial milestone as it becomes the most valuable publicly traded stock ever.
The company it bests to attain this record? Longtime rival Microsoft, which peaked on December 30, 1999. Apple’s surge to the top spot serves as a reminder of just how radically the fortunes of both companies changed over the years.
Apple beats its long-time frenemy
At the time of achieving this financial record, Apple’s market capitalization hit $623.5 billion. That surpassed Microsoft’s $618.69 billion valuation in the closing days of the previous century.
While adjusted for inflation, Microsoft still held the record. However, Apple’s ascension still proved extraordinary. Throughout the 1990s, Microsoft — a former Apple developer — trounced Cupertino at every turn. A series of hit products placed Apple firmly in the driver’s seat, though.
Apple shares on August 20, 2012, traded at $665.15. Wondering why that’s more than the $140+ AAPL trades at as of this writing? This was before a 7-to-1 stock split in 2014 and a 4-to-1 split in 2020 that vastly increased the number of Apple shares available.
Apple’s rocketship trajectory
Apple’s record wasn’t a huge surprise. Despite the predictions of doom the company faced after Steve Jobs’ death the year before, Apple was clearly on a roll back then.
In 2011, Apple overtook ExxonMobil to become the world’s most valuable company. By mid-2012, its stock was more than 50 percent bigger than ExxonMobil, with over $200 billion separating the two companies’ market caps.
Since then, Apple continued its upward trajectory under the steady leadership of Tim Cook. After smashing Microsoft’s record, Apple went on to become the first public company in history valued at $700 billion, then $800 billion and $900 billion. In 2018, Apple finally achieved an astonishing figure as it passed the $1 trillion mark. Microsoft followed it past the $1 trillion mark a few months later. In 2020, Apple became the first publicly traded U.S. company to surpass $2 trillion and it’s now just below $2.5 trillion.
Did you have the foresight to invest in Apple back when it was (comparatively) cheap? Do you have any horror stories about selling your AAPL holdings before they really took off? Let us know in the comments below.