Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 06:29 am PT (09:29 am ET)
Wall Street encouraged by Apple's strong iPhone sales & positive guidance, still awaiting new productsMarket watchers were impressed by the results for Apple's June quarter, as iPhone sales came in higher than expectations and guidance for the September quarter was positive. But investors are still pinning their hopes on Apple's anticipated next-generation iPhones and iPads to be blockbuster hits.
Chart by Dan Frommer, via TechCrunch.
Following Apple's quarterly results on Tuesday, analysts offered their mostly positive responses to the fact that the company sold a June quarterly record 31.2 million iPhones. Here, AppleInsider offers a rundown of their reactions.
Apple's guidance for the September quarter projects gross margin of between 36 and 37 percent, which was a surprise to analyst Katy Huberty. She, like many others, expects new products to debut in the quarter, and product transitions usually negatively affect margins.
"We believe more favorable component pricing (NAND, HDD, LCD) and improved iPhone mix are tailwinds that help offset currency volatility and product transition costs in the September quarter," she wrote.
As for the stronger-than-expected iPhone results, she noted that Apple's 20 percent year-over-year growth came in spite of a channel inventory reduction. In addition, the U.S., Japan, and the U.K. all grew iPhone sales north of 50 percent.
The weak spot for Apple's June quarter was the iPad, which saw its first-ever sales decline. Huberty expects that demand will return when the company debuts a fifth-generation iPad in the near future.
Apple's June quarter results were "not too bad," analyst Mark Moskowitz said. He expects the stock price to react favorably due to strong iPhone sales and a gross margin outlook that's better than many investors anticipated.
Issues for the company, according to Moskowitz, are a slowdown in China, and soft iPad sales. But he expects near-term growth from anticipated iPhone launches in September and a new iPad mini in October.
"In such a case, we think any temporary pressure on gross margin related to new products is likely deferred to (the December quarter)," he said. "This dynamic could pressure gross margin, but we think that the offset is higher revenue growth."
A key question for Moskowitz is whether Apple will stagger its new product launches this fall. He cited shortages seen by Apple last year that potentially cost the company "customer conversions."
Needham & Company
Apple's fourth fiscal quarter guidance suggests to analyst Charlie Wolf that Apple might introduce a next-generation "iPhone 5S" before the end of the quarter. But for now, he said the story for Apple among investors is, "What have you done for me lately?"
Can Apple innovate at the same pace without Steve Jobs? Analyst Charlie Wolf believes the answer is forthcoming.
"After a whirlwind of new product introductions in the fall of 2012, Apple has been virtually silent on the product introduction front for nine months," he said. "That should change beginning in September/October with the launch of the next-generation iPhone and iPad."
While he sees updates to Apple's best-selling products on the horizon, Wolf does not anticipate that the company will introduce products in new categories this year. Rumors have suggested Apple is working on both wearable technology, such as a so-called "iWatch," as well as a full-fledged television set.
"These initiatives suggest that Apple should once again be able to enter new product categories in 2014, although it is difficult to imagine that they will be the revenue producers that the iPhone and iPad have turned out to be," he said.
For now, the risk for Apple is whether the company can continue to innovate at the same pace without legendary co-founder Steve Jobs at the helm.
"We are approaching a point when an answer might be forthcoming," he said.
Analyst Gene Munster is encouraged by iPhone demand, which he believes was pushed higher by a price cut on the iPhone 4 in emerging markets. That pushed iPhone sales 18 percent higher than expected, but also led to a 5 percent decline quarter over quarter in the iPhone lineup's average selling price.
Apple is weathering its current "transitional quarters" well, Gene Munster believes, but anticipation is growing for the company's next big thing.
Following Tuesday's results, Munster admitted that the iPhone franchise is in better shape than he previously believed. He estimates that average selling prices on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S were unchanged, while price cuts on the iPhone 4 in emerging markets likely made the low-end handset's average selling price drop 15 percent.
Apple currently finds itself in "transitional quarters," he said. But that's anticipated to change over the next six quarters, when he sees a range of new products debuting, beginning with a cheaper, plastic iPhone model this fall.
Munster has been a longtime vocal proponent for an Apple television, and he continues to believe that the company will introduce such a product late this year. He expects Apple will also unveil an "iWatch" in 2014.
With Apple admitting that new products will launch in the fall, and analyst Maynard Um expecting a late September iPhone launch, he views Friday, Sept. 27 as a likely date for a new product to debut. Fall officially runs from Sept. 22 to Dec. 21.
"We find it curious that flattish revenue guidance implies there may not be any greater pause ahead of the new iPhone this year than there was last year, despite Apple effectively previewing a launch timeframe particularly interesting given the lowering of iPhone channel inventory, presumably to manage the transition and limit price protection," he said.
Potential reasons for this may have been strong demand in July, or greater confidence for a bigger initial launch in late September.
As for the iPad, shipments were down 14 percent year over year, but when adjusting for reductions in channel inventory, the true drop-off was just 3 percent. Um believes iPad sales were likely soft in the U.S. and Europe, as Apple highlighted double-digit growth in China, Japan, Canada, Russia, Latin America, the Middle East, and India.
Chris Whitmore viewed Apple's June quarter as a mixed bag: He was encouraged by iPhone sales, margins, and earnings per share upside, but views declining iPhone average selling prices, soft iPad and Mac sales, and slowdown in China as negatives for the company.
For investors, he believes there will be "no clarity until new products arrive," as he noted that Apple refused to say whether or not the September quarter would include a significant product transition.
"In fact, the better-than-expected margin guidance gives rise to concerns that the new iPhones could come either at the very end of the September quarter (and have no material impact in September) or is pushed to the December quarter," he said.
RBC Capital Markets
Apple's June quarter was better than analyst Amit Daryanani feared it might be, but he believes the focus will remain on Apple's product cycle and anticipated updates to the iPhone and iPad lineup. He also believes investors will keep an eye on Apple's long-term gross margins.
Daryanani believes Apple's guidance for the next quarter implies that an "iPhone 5S" will go on sale in either the second or third week of September.
He also noted that Apple's "blended" average selling price for the iPhone was at $581, representing a 17 percent quarter-over-quarter decline. That suggests to him that sales of the legacy iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S were more robust when compared to the iPhone 5.
Analyst Brian Marshall believes Apple has an "urgent need" for an iPhone with a larger display. But while the "iPhone 5S" is expected to have the same 4-inch display as the iPhone 5, he believes the "extreme makeover" of iOS 7 may satisfy loyal Apple fans, giving them "enough reason to wait for a larger-display iPhone model."
He expects that an iPhone with a screen size at about 5 inches could be a catalyst for the company over the next 3 to 9 months. He also anticipated a new iPad mini, and potential new product category announcements, such as a television or smart watch.
Longtime Apple bear Alex Gauna viewed the company's June quarter as "an encouraging step in the right direction after the disappointment last quarter." However, he said the results were not strong enough to convince him that Apple is "out of the competitive and gross margin squeeze woods yet."
JMP Securities has maintained its "market perform" rating for AAPL stock. Gauna said he's hoping to see "better visibility or confidence in new earnings growth drivers" before he's willing to view Apple as a good buy for investors.
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