Dual Words of Caution Eat Up $25 Billion in Apple Market Value

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is poised to release its brand new iPhone 6 soon, but what does that mean to investors? The answer is that it depends on which analyst you want to rely on. Wednesday’s answer is that it would be safer to rely on some caution as two brokerage firms have cautious reports out on Apple now.

Oppenheimer has transferred analyst coverage and has predicted that the iPhone 6 will be the best iPhone to date. Features are expected to include an upgraded iOS 8, a larger display and a sharper camera. Some Apple fanatics have gone as far to say that this new iPhone will be a true “game changer.”

What stood out was that Apple was only given a Perform rating with at least some caution included in the positive commentary. Oppenheimer did not give a price target, but it expects earnings per share to grow by 15% over the next three to five years.

The Oppenheimer analyst report on Apple had this to say about the lofty verbiage:

If we chose buzzwords such as “beautiful,” “gorgeous,” “amazing,” “more powerful,” “longer battery life,” we would be drunk on knowledge very quickly as these are almost guaranteed to recur every year. But these buzzwords are also expected with any other new smartphone and are not unique to Apple. Instead, we will focus on the features that set the iPhone apart from competitors and the offer our angles to think about them as they are introduced at the launch event.

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Oppenheimer now only expects the company to perform in line with the S&P 500 within the next 12 to 18 months. This is also considering the release of the iPhone 6 and the fanfare that comes from it. Rationalizing this rating, the report went on to say:

North America opportunities have matured, we continue to see good opportunities for international, especially with Apple incrementally adding new, priced iPhones and iPads to the mix. We believe there is a long runway to grow iPad shipments with consumers and in enterprise.

Another word of caution is being signaled elsewhere. Pacific Crest said that Apple will have to blow the doors off the proverbial hinges next week with massive profit potential to keep from being downgraded. The firm said it is ready to downgrade the stock from its Outperform rating if the news is not phenomenal. After all, the stock had risen nearly 40% from late April.

Pacific Crest also believes that the iPhone 6 will boost near-term results. Still, it sees overall iPhone volume likely to fall in late 2015 or 2016. That may come with a compression of its earnings multiple, unless it can launch new products that will generate billions of dollars in new profits.

One last issue to consider here is not just from Wall Street analysts. Last week we pointed out how Apple was now worth $100 billion more in market cap than Walmart and General Electric combined. That is a function of market cap rather than many metrics we compared, but a cautious investor may worry that a market cap peaking above $600 billion may just be too much to keep chasing.

Apple shares were down more than 4% at $99.01 at the noon hour on Wednesday. Its stock has a consensus price target from analysts of $106.83, and its 52-week range is $63.89 to $103.74.

Here is a real figure to consider: Apple shares have lost close to $25 billion in market cap just on these two cautious reports.

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