By Cody Miecnikowski
On Wednesday, August 5, shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) tumbled down to its lowest point since January as investor sentiment on the stock became red-hot negative. The tech giant has been hit by Wall Street concerns regarding its business in China due to stagnating economic growth. Furthermore, Apple has recently slipped from its dominant position in the Chinese smartphone market. To put this in perspective, investors have sold off more than $111 billion of Apple’s market value, accounting for a 15% drop in share price since its July 21 earnings call.
On August 5, investors saw one of the first cracks in the bearish perspective as analyst Wamsi Mohan of Merrill Lynch downgraded his Apple rating to Neutral from Buy while cutting his price target to $130 from $142. Mohan attributes his downgrade mainly to “deceleration” in iPhone sales.
The analyst reports that long term opportunity for Apple is substantial; however, he notes that near term pressure on shares will be driven by 6 key factors:
First, shares will be hit by “significant slowdown in revenue growth as iPhone growth decelerates and other initiatives like Apple Watch, Apple Pay, and Apple music take time to ramp.” Second, “China now accounts for 25% of iPhone sales” and Mohan believes future share gains will difficult for Apple to attain. Third, “the stock price is correlated to gross profit dollar growth, which despite the mix benefit of the iPhone will decelerate significantly over the next few quarters.” Fourth, the impact of beats is deteriorating, “creating higher risk to negative revisions particularly as the Apple Watch expectations are likely too elevated in 2016.” Fifth, Mohan believes the iPhone 6S/6S+ will feature only “incremental” upgrades like “force touch”, and will not be “compelling enough for driving a significant change in the pace of share gains.” Lastly, the analyst does not see “incremental capital return announcements beyond the already announced plans in the near term.”
Mohan views apple as “one of the most innovative companies in the world,” but believes investors should “wait for a cyclically better entry point” given that “financials will take a pause from the significant growth witnessed over the past year.”
When measured over a one-year horizon and no benchmark, Wamsi Mohan has an overall success rate of 50% recommending stocks and a +5.9% average return per recommendation. The analyst has rated Apple a total of 11 times since October 2015, earning a 40% success rate recommending the stock and a (-2.5%) average loss per Apple recommendation.
Conversely, other analysts still view Apple as a winner.
RBC Capital analyst Amit Daryanani weighed in on Apple after reviewing the company’s latest 10-Q report. On August 4, the analyst reiterated a Buy rating on the stock with a $150 price target, commenting that the balance sheet suggests a possible 6s ramp is coming.
Daryanani’s review suggests that Apple has: 1) “Material ramp planned” for the second half of 2015 and the first half of 2016 due to “increased manufacturing and component purchase commitments.” 2) “Adjusted Capex [is] down by $1.0 billion” and 3) “60% of incremental sales [came] from China and an even higher percentage of incremental operating profits.”
Furthermore, Daryanani believes Apple’s falling profit margins in America are “likely due to currency (Canada) and headwind from AppleWatch.”
He added, “The material spike in off balance sheet commitments for manufacturing and component purchase, which is the highest number we have seen, suggests AAPL is potentially not just gearing up for iPhone 6S ramp but could be securing capacity for incremental products.” Daryanani concludes, “We would note the spike in purchase commitments is in-line to modestly higher than trends we have seen historically ahead of a product launch.”
When measured over a one-year horizon and no benchmark, Amit Daryanani has an overall success rate of 58% recommending stocks, earning a +5.5% average return per recommendation. The analyst has rated Apple a total of 33 times since May 2012, earning a 73% success rate recommending the stock and a +18.2% average return per Apple recommendation.
Separately on August 6, Daniel Ives of FBR maintained an Outperform rating on Apple with a $175 price target, noting factors such as “a host of growing new products/services (e.g., Apple Music, streaming TV possible later this fall, Apple Pay).” Additionally, analyst Daniel Ives centers around two key points: the huge greenfield market opportunity that China represents and tough iPhone comparables.
Ives notes that, despite macroeconomic problems in China, Apple’s “white-hot momentum” should continue in the next few quarters given A) low levels of penetration at approximately 15% market share; B) growing demand for Apple’s App Store; and C) other opportunities across the Apple ecosystem. In terms of tough iPhone comparables, Ives emphasizes the huge strides that iPhone 6 and 6 Plus sales have made over the past year. Ives maintains that investors have expressed similar sentiments about product cycles in the past (e.g. with the iPhone 5), which proved not to be of concern. More than 70% of iPhone users have yet to upgrade to the iPhone 6/ 6 Plus, and this dynamic could occur in line with the expected release of the iPhone 6s/ 6 Plus later this year.
When measured over a one-year horizon and no benchmark, Daniel Ives has an overall success rate of 63% recommending stocks, earning a +9.1% average return per recommendation. The analyst has rated Apple a total of 11 times since March 2015, earning a 0% success rate recommending the stock and a -9.1% average loss per Apple recommendation.
Out of 34 analysts polled by TipRanks, 22 analysts are bullish on Apple, 10 are neutral and 2 are bearish. The average 12-month price target for Apple is $149.72, marking a 29.74% potential upside from where the stock last traded hands. On average, the all-analyst consensus for Apple is a Moderate Buy.