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Apple's iPad brand more valuable than Nike and McDonald's

The Apple iPad has grown to such great heights that it could claim its own spot among some of the world's most valuable companies.

Apple's iPad business, if it were a stand-alone company, would technically rank as the 11th largest US tech firm, according to a report from Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi.

As reported Tuesday by Fortune, the iPad line brought in $32 billion (£19.9bn) in revenue last year, or a total of 60 per cent of all global consumer tablet revenue. In 2013, iPad and iPad mini sales are projected in some quarters to grow 75 per cent to a whopping $46 billion (£28.6bn).

The lineup of iPad devices — including the iPad, iPad 2, "New iPad", iPad mini, and fourth-generation iPad — can also hold its own against such well-established brands as McDonald's and Nike. Based on Sacconaghi's research, both companies would be staring up at iPad, Inc. on the Fortune 500 list, where the iPad would have ranked as number 98 in 2012.

In fact, Apple's golden goose makes more money than Gap and Toys 'R' Us combined, Forbes said.

The iPad could get even stronger in the next few years. Sacconaghi predicted healthy sales growth for Apple's tablet products over the next two years before adoption plateaus in 2015 in a saturated market. In fact, the analyst expects the 58 million iPad units shipped in 2012 to be dwarfed by the Cupertino-based firm's tablet shipments in 2015, which he forecast will reach 166 million units.

In fact, since Apple jump-started the consumer tablet market three years ago, it has helped to push global tablet shipments up to par with laptops, which began to sell at a 1:1 ratio last year, according to new research from NPD DisplaySearch.

Apple's brand name may not be as healthy as its tablet portfolio, though. On Monday, Fortune pointed to another Sacconaghi report theorising that despite the firm's intense fan following, the company technically lacks the "high customer repurchase intention" other brands like Nike and Louis Vuitton enjoy.

The explanation — Apple gets less than 50 per cent of its sales from repeat customers. But that could be changing. A Bernstein Research consumer survey found that a whopping 95 per cent of current iPhone users in Europe and North America plan to buy another Apple smartphone, and 85 per cent of iPad users feel the same way about their tablet.