Earlier this week, word got out that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) planned a special event related to its expected iPhone 5 introduction for September 12, with the formal product release set for September 21. Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee, has now come out with what the earlier-than-expected date might mean.
First of all, Wu says we shouldn’t be surprised that at the early announcement. It’s not like the iPhone refresh is unexpected. Apple probably figures that the impact of the rumored iPhone refresh on its sales last quarter is more damaging than releasing the new iPhone a little early.
Second, the early timing should have little, if any, impact on the quarter ending in September because volume production of the updated iPhone is not likely to begin until late in that month. As a result, Apple is not likely to see significant revenue from the iPhone until the December quarter. Shaw estimates iPhone shipments of 23 million units in the September quarter and 45 million in the December quarter.
Third, the new touch-screen technology could have an impact on the manufacturing ramp. The expected demand explosion could push some sales out into the March or June quarter of 2013.
Finally, Apple’s negotiations with China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) have reached the point where only final details remain to be agreed upon. The companies have already figured out how to build an iPhone that is compatible with China Mobile’s proprietary 3G network. The goal is to ship product by the end of this year, but Shaw thinks high volume shipments won’t begin until next year.
Sterne Agee maintains its $780 target price on Apple’s shares, along with its ‘buy’ rating. The firm expects Apple to post EPS of $8.37 in the September quarter, which is lower than the Thomson/Reuters consensus estimate of $8.47.
Apple’s shares are trading down slightly, off -0.1% at $606.17 shortly before noon today. The 52-week range is $353.02-$644.00.