iPhone 6 Sales Record Disappoints — Sort Of

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) reported Monday morning that it received more than 4 million pre-orders for its new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the first 24 hours that the devices were available for pre-ordering. The company will not report actual sales until next week, after the new phones begin shipping.

Apple did not announce pre-orders last year, but when it did announce its first weekend sales total, the company said it had set a new sales record for the first three days of 9 million units sold.

Could Monday’s announcement have been better? Investors seem to think it’s not great news. Shares were trading up less than 1% in Monday’s premarket session, which is not exactly a euphoric response to the weekend’s pre-ordering activity. And for an update, the stock closed marginally lower on Monday.

The lack of availability of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in China could have a dampening effect on both pre-orders and sales. Not only are the new phones not available on September 19 in China, they are not shown to be available in the second batch of countries where the new phones will be available the following Friday.

Apple announced last week that the big three mobile carriers in China would not be offering the phone at the launch, and the speculation was that Chinese regulators had not given approval for the device. No reason has been given for the delay.

Some analysts have projected sales of 90 million iPhones or more by the end of this year. Apple’s sales in China are crucial to achieving that total. Chances are that the current delay in China is just that, a delay, and not a long-term prohibition. We might also expect that once the phones do go on sale, pent-up demand will make up the shortfall that is likely to have occurred in the first three days of sales.

Apple Stock was trading at $103.02 about 15 minutes before Monday’s opening bell. The stock’s 52-week range is $63.89 to $103.74.

To say that this is a true disappointment may seem like it is “fire for effect.” The problem we have with the press release is that if it was truly phenomenal news then the stock would be up several percent and hitting new highs yet again. So far, that is not the case Monday.

UPDATE FOR CLOSE: Apple shares closed down $0.03 at $101.63 on over 60 million shares. Again, this is not exactly bad news to have a record in pre-orders. The view here is that if it was an unexpectedly good news release that was above and beyond what was expected by estimates then this stock would have taken off substantially higher yet again. That simply did not happen.

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