Shares of Apple stock surged more than 3 percent on Monday, after news broke that the company has reached a long-awaited deal to begin selling the iPhone in January through China Mobile, the world's largest wireless provider.
Analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray has big expectations for Apple's newly christened deal with China Mobile. He predicts the arrangement will add 5 percent to Wall Street 2014 revenue estimates.
He believes the deal could lead to 17 million additional iPhone sales for Apple in 2014, which would represent 10 percent of China Mobile's 176 million current 3G subscribers.
Maynard Um of Wells Fargo also believes the deal will further boost investor confidence in Apple's March iPhone sales. He expects Apple will sell 42.8 million handsets next quarter, following sales of 54.8 million in the current December quarter.
China Mobile was "worth the wait" for investors, analyst Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald said. He believes Apple had to negotiate hard to access its 763.3 million subscribers, leading to a lengthy delay before China Mobile became a partner.
"Despite not having an official agreement with China Mobile before Sunday night's announcement, we estimate there are 35-40 million iPhone users on the network at China Mobile," White said in a note to investors on Monday. "Our visits to China Mobile branches, and resellers, and an Apple Retail Store this weekend in China highlighted that China Mobile is offering the iPhone 5s (and iPhone 5c) to customers."
White is more bullish than others on Wall Street, and predicts that China Mobile will add 20 million to 24 million iPhone sales to Apple's bottom line in 2014.
That's more aggressive than Mark Moskowitz of J.P. Morgan, whose research in the market suggests iPhone units would be around 2 million per quarter in what he called the "initial stages."
"While we think China Mobile can be a bigger source of iPhone sales over time, we prefer to be cautious for a couple of reasons," Moskowitz wrote. "one reason is that there are more than 40 million unlocked iPhones running on China Mobile's network. Secondly, the high-end segment is a smaller portion of China Mobile's subscriber base."
Finally, analyst Timothy Acuri of Cowen and Company sees the China Mobile deal as a source of potential upside for Apple's forthcoming March quarter. He feels confident his estimate of 39 million iPhone sales in the coming quarter will be achieved thanks in part to the new agreement.
In all, Acuri believes China Mobile could add 20 million iPhone sales in calendar 2014, with upside going as high as 30 million.
Monday's gains for AAPL stock stand in contrast to last week, when an official China Mobile announcement was expected. When that didn't happen, the company's shares dipped, as investors have been heavily anticipating the agreement.