Apple Shares Get Upgrade on iPhone Prospects (Update 1)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The iPhone announcement may have been a big hit with consumers but Wall Street had its doubts. However, Apple
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek upgraded Apple shares to "buy" from "hold," raising his price target to $600 from $425, after noting that meeting with Apple's suppliers had a positive change in sentiment towards the Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple. He believes that suppliers became more lenient on price, which should boost Apple's gross margins.
"Despite still seeing risk to CQ4 and FY13 revs, we now believe better GMs will allow Apple to skate by until iPhone 6 launches with its 4.8" screen," Misek wrote in a report. "We est ~50% of smartphone shipments have >4" screens and that iPhone 6 will catalyze a large upgrade cycle. The stock is attractive based on the attitude change, FY15 revs >+15%, and valuation."
He raised his fiscal 2014 gross margin estimates to 39.8%, up from 36.3%, while noting that Wall Street estimates are at 37.4%. Apple's dominant position over its supply chain remains despite concerns that suppliers earlier in the year boasted Apple would "not be able to push them around anymore."
Apple recently raised its fiscal fourth-quarter guidance as a result of selling the 9 million iPhones in their opening weekend. "Apple expects total company revenue for the fourth fiscal quarter to be near the high end of the previously provided range of $34 billion to $37 billion, and expects gross margin to be near the high end of the previously provided range of 36% to 37%," the company said in filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Despite the optimism, Misek noted his concerns for the calendar fourth-quarter, Apple's all-important holiday selling season. He believes that the iPhone 5c is seeing a build cut to a range of 15 million to 20 million units, down from an initial 30 million build. He expects Apple to earn $13.28 a share, below Wall Street estimates of $13.81.
Conversely, Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White, he of the $777 price target, believes that the "Apple Barometer," which he uses to track Apple and its suppliers, rose approximately 9% to 10% month over month, as the new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c were released.
"Keep in mind, Apple has traditionally launched the iPhone in June or July; however, this began to change in 2011 and thus historical comparisons for September can be skewed," White wrote in a note. "Additionally, the preliminary performance this September is well above the up 3% MoM in 2012."