It was just last week that we saw Credit Suisse issue a note of caution in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) despite the firm maintaining an “Outperform” and $750 price target. The firm lowered growth of the iPhone sales and it lowered earnings estimates due to the iPhone. Today we are seeing another analyst issue some caution on iPhone sales but this analyst report is being offset by iPad strength.
Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee has now adjusted his estimates for the iPhone and iPad after reviewing Apple’s recent supplier checks. The concern is that supplier checks indicate near-term iPhone expectations are likely too high. Fortunately for the Apple lovers and fanboys, Mr. Wu said this weakness will be offset by strength in the iPad.
Wu noted, “Based on our supply chain work, we believe significant iPhone upside over the next two quarters is less likely based on reduced supplier build plans. Conversely, the likelihood of iPad upside appears higher due to additional screen supply. Recall, last year ahead of the iPhone 4S refresh, Street estimates of 20 million units (some as high as 23 million) were significantly off from actual shipments of 17 million.”
The report indicates that building plans for current iPhones have been reduced significantly, down as much as 20% to 25% in the March quarter with potential shipments of 26 million to 28 million (below consensus closer to 30 to 31 million).
Another issue is the 8.6 million iPhones in channel inventory. Wu believes that the reason for the reduction is not demand related. It is due to the upcoming 6th generation iPhone refresh that is expected in the September-October timeframe. Wu went on to note, “We would also like to note that consensus last year grossly underestimated the impact of a pause and inventory drawdown ahead of the iPhone 4S refresh where estimates were significantly off.”
The strength overall is coming from the iPad and what held back shipments were supply constraints on its new HD retina display. The firm has heard that this has been greatly improved with an additional supplier and Apple can better meet strong demand and deliver upside relative to consensus expectations.
For the June quarter, Stern Agee is cutting its iPhone forecast to 27 million units from 28 million units, but it is raising iPad targets to 15 million units from 14 million. Apple’s gross margin assumption is now raised to 43.5% from 42.5% and the firm now sees $36.1 billion in revenue and $10.16 in earnings per share. For the company’s Fiscal-2012, the firm is now at $159 billion in sales and $46.75 in earnings per share. Those are slightly higher. For Fiscal-2013, Stern Agee sees $189 billion in revenues and $53.50 in earnings per share.
In the end, the report seems to be a wash as Stern Agee is leaving its BUY rating in place and it is even leaving its price target at $780 based on 11.7-times its 2013 earnings plus net cash.
Apple shares are up about $1.00 at $559.30 shortly after the open and the 52-week trading range is $310.50 to $644.00.
JON C. OGG