Apple loses its shine and its stock may be headed for a slump
The company reported a third straight quarter of declining revenue, amounting to 1.4% for the period ended July 1. And it predicted a similar performance for the current quarter. (Full disclosure: I'm an Apple shareholder.)
iPhone sales, which account for 48% of total revenue, slid 2.4% in the latest quarter. And earlier this month, China banned government workers from using iPhones.
China is an important market for Apple, with Greater China accounting for 19% of the company’s overall revenue. Greater China includes mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Tibet. The U.S. trade conflict with China has now put that 19% of sales at risk.
“China’s extended ban on the use of iPhones in government agencies is a wild card that could dampen our iPhone sales recovery scenario next year,” said Bloomberg analysts Anurag Rana and Andrew Girard.
Apple’s dependence on iPhones is a problem because global shipments of smartphones dropped to 268 million in the second quarter from 294.5 million phones a year earlier. To be sure, Apple's shipment decline was smaller than that of other major smartphone makers, at 1.2 million units, according to Counterpoint Research, as cited by Reuters.
To be sure, not all the earnings news for Apple is bad. Its services revenue, which accounts for 26% of overall sales, climbed 8% in the quarter ended July 1 from a year earlier. The services category includes Apple’s App Store, Apple Pay and Apple Music.
Strength in emerging markets
In addition, the company said that for the latest quarter, “we saw continued strength in emerging markets thanks to robust sales of iPhones.” Apple is particularly enthusiastic about India, where it said iPhone sales rose at a double-digit rate to a new high.
Still, Apple’s market capitalization, even after pulling back from $3 trillion plus, stands at $2.75 trillion. That’s 10% of the nation’s total GDP ($27 trillion). I don’t know how you measure the fair value of a company’s market-cap to GDP. But 10% certainly seems high at first glance.
Apple’s stock has gained a whopping 35% year to date and 26% annualized over the past five years, according to Morningstar. Analyst Brian Colello puts fair value for the stock at $150. That’s 15% below its Tuesday quote of $177.
As for the new iPhones, “overall, we’re delighted with Apple’s innovation within these devices, as the firm continues to show off its cumulative expertise (and competitive advantage) in hardware, software, services, and semiconductors,” Colello said.
“Nonetheless, with shares trading around $175, we continue to view shares as modestly overvalued. We foresee only mid-single-digit revenue growth for the company over the next few years.”
Apple needs a home run
It would seem that Apple needs a new home-run product to boost the share price. In June, the company introduced its first significant new product since 2014: virtual reality goggles at $3,499 a pop.
But the Vision Pro won’t go on sale until 2024, and analysts forecast shipments of less than 1 million for the first year. That compares to estimated sales of 232 million iPhones last year.
Rosenblatt Securities analyst Barton Crockett downgraded Apple’s stock to neutral last month, Bloomberg reports. The second-quarter earnings numbers “highlight the slowdown phase in which Apple now sits,” he said.
Despite the strength in services, “a slowdown in the U.S. seems likely to last until a material new product category takes hold,” Crockett said.
And such a development is “uncertain both in timing and success, leaving little reason to favor shares now trading near peak absolute and relative multiples,” he said.
Sign up for our e-News Alerts