A key reason for Apple’s outperformance this year was investor anticipation for a big upgrade cycle from this year’s more innovative iPhone models.
Now one Wall Street firm says the so-called “supercycle” may not happen, but strong demand for the $1,000 iPhone X will boost the company’s earnings next year instead.
The iPhone X will be available Nov. 3 at a base model price of $999, while the iPhone 8 launched last week. Raymond James reiterated its outperform rating for Apple shares, predicting better profitability and average selling prices for iPhones next year.
“Our September consumer survey suggests no evidence of an accelerated upgrade cycle for the 8 or X, but it does suggest a surprising demand for the X over the 8 given the price differential and lack of killer app,” Tavis McCourt wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.
“Therefore, we view the recent pullback as a trading opportunity.”
Apple shares rose 1.4 percent in early trading Tuesday after the report.
The company has lost approximately $50 billion in market value since it announced its latest line of products on Sept. 12. Despite recent weakness this month, Apple is still one of the market’s best-performing large-cap stocks so far this year. Its shares have rallied 30 percent through Friday versus the S&P 500’s 12 percent gain.
McCourt said 37 percent of iPhone owners plan to upgrade in the next 12 months versus a 44 percent average in the previous three years, according to the firm’s surveys. In addition, only 14 percent of iPhone owners plan to upgrade in the next three months versus 15 percent last year and 17 percent in 2015.
“The data suggests that this year’s refresh may not drive the proverbial ‘supercycle’ that many have predicted,” he wrote.
As a result, the analyst lowered his fiscal 2018 iPhone unit sales forecast to 240 million from 260 million.
However, he said there was big positive news in the survey. McCourt cited how 46 percent of the upgrading consumers plan to buy the more expensive iPhone X. He predicts the better product mix will benefit Apple’s gross profit margins by 2 percentage points in fiscal 2018 and increase the average selling price for its iPhone business by 10 percent next year.
Consequently, he raised his earnings per share estimate for Apple’s fiscal 2018 to $10.85 from $10.50.
McCourt also increased his price target for Apple shares to $180 from $170, which is 20 percent higher than Friday’s close.
“We still expect the trading peak [for Apple shares] to occur in 1H18, likely the March quarter, as historically the shares have peaked in the quarters of maximum y/y growth,” he wrote.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.