Corporate earnings season is upon us, and the largest company by market cap is set to report in the coming week. The new Apple Watch has already debuted. With all this commotion surrounding Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) in the near future, analysts have weighed in on the tech giant to shine some light on what to expect.
Argus reiterated its Buy rating for Apple raised its price target to $145 from $135, implying upside of 15%, without including the dividend. The firm has another more forward-looking price target, via a two-state discounted free cash flow model, that gives a value for Apple north of $200.
The official price target mainly reflects ongoing strength in iPhone, along with positive signs of Mac demand for the calendar first quarter of 2015. Argus raised its fiscal 2015 and 2016 sales and earnings per share (EPS) forecasts for Apple. Despite year-to-date market outperformance after an equally robust 2014, Apple shares remain attractively valued, given that its operating fundamentals continue to run ahead of share price appreciation.
Argus now expects sales of 56.0 million iPhone units, up from 53.0 million, and iPhone revenue of $38.2 billion, up from $35.5 billion. Argus also nudged up expectations for Mac units in the second quarter of 2015.
Given a stronger expected contribution from the iPhone, Argus raised its 2015 fiscal year earnings forecast to $8.78 per share from a prior $8.55. The firm also raised its 2016 fiscal year forecast to $9.44 per share from $9.10. With no significant adjustments, events or charges in any period, the long-term EPS growth rate forecast for Apple is 13%.
Argus gave its opinion on the new Apple Watch:
We are not counting on much of a contribution from Apple Watch in and of itself; as technology products go, it is more wanted than needed. And in its first iteration, Apple Watch is likely more of a cost center than an earnings driver, meaning it could be a tiny hit to Apple’s massive earnings. However, this new product keeps Apple relevant and top-of-mind for consumers as the smartphone space enters the sluggish summer months leading up the new product launches in the fall.
The firm also believes that the Apple Watch, though likely irrelevant or even slightly negative to the 2015 fiscal year earnings, keeps Apple relevant and on top of consumers’ minds as the smartphone space enters the sluggish summer months leading up the new product launches in the fall.
Among its strengths, Apple Watch was called a nifty fitness tool, in that you can monitor your heartbeat, workout performance and other metrics with a glance at your wrist. The firm said that a weakness of the Apple Watch is that we are not all buff 20-somethings in spandex.
Argus went on to say:
Regardless of our perception of the device’s strengths and weaknesses, the device is sure to draw a dedicated coterie of Apple lovers. How much broader its appeal will be is open to question. Regarding pre-orders for the first weekend, preliminary press reports ranged from 1 million orders to 2.5 million orders. Given the more limited appeal and the fact that the Apple Watch is a luxury and not a necessity, we would expect the tail-off from the initial pre-order period to be fairly steep.
Shares of Apple were down 0.6% to $126.01 Tuesday morning. The stock has a consensus analyst price target of $139.72 and a 52-week trading range of $73.05 to $133.60.
Having a $145 target versus a $135 price target is still more upside than seen before. The problem is that it is still not that big for Apple investors. Now consider that $200 objective on the longer-term horizon. Apple’s market cap is now about $735 billion, but a rise to $200 would give Apple a market cap approaching $1.2 trillion. Even if Apple buys back and retires another $100 billion in stock, it would be a $1 trillion value if Argus is close to being right here.