What It Takes for Apple to Get Back to $700

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) shares reached a special milestone recently. They closed above $600 for the first time since October 2012. The celebration should be muted, though. They are still a long way from topping $700, as in September 2012. Could Apple get back to $700? Possibly, but several things would have to happen together, or in rapid succession.

Apple’s shares cannot rise without a nearly perfect launch of the iPhone 6. The iPhone 5 was a modest success, but not enough to cement Apple’s reputation as the most innovative company in consumer electronics. What would qualify as a success? Apple sold 43.7 million iPhones in the most recently reported quarter. However, that was down from 51 million the quarter before. Apple needs to sell 60 million iPhones in the full quarter after the iPhone 6 launches. Anything short of that would be a disappointment. Anything above it, a triumph.

Apple must show explosive growth in China. With a 7% market share there, it lags well behind leader Samsung, as well as locals Lenovo and Huawei. Apple needs to demonstrate that its distribution with China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL), the world’s largest wireless company, has yielded fruit and lifted its market share closer to that of Samsung, which has 19% of the market. Apple will not top Samsung, because the South Korean company has a line of cheaper phones, but Apple has to gain a lot of ground.

Apple needs a new product, perhaps an iWatch with functions that are unexpectedly better than any other wearable device. Alternatively, Apple could launch a product like Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Glass, but its features would have to be much broader than those of Glass, which is still a relatively primitive product.

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Apple’s revenue has to move back toward $60 billion a quarter. Revenue reached $58 billion in the first quarter of its fiscal year, and it fell to $45.6 million in the most recently reported period. However, the current quarter is forecast to do no better than $38 billion. It will take a hugely successful iPhone 6 launch to move revenue back up and beyond its all-time quarterly high.

The new iPad has to do better than it has done in any quarter. Apple sold 26 million in its first fiscal quarter. Anything less than that in the quarter after a new iPad launch would be insufficient to show Apple can hold and expand at the top of the tablet market.

And, if it does not maintain its traditionally high gross margins, Wall Street will think Apple has begun to spend too much to gain higher sales. The means a number around 40% of revenue.

Putting together a successful attainment of all these benchmarks will be extraordinarily difficult. However, when Apple’s share price was above $700, it was considered the world’s most extraordinary company.

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