Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) remains one of the cheapest stocks, if not the cheapest with a 44 percent average premium placed on its current market price by analysts. In a recent report, we revealed Apple's average target price from leading analysts to be about $740 per share, which translated to approximately 44 percent premium on its day's closing price. Nonetheless, analysts continue to lower their price target on the iPhone maker, pointing to slowdown in growth rate as a major factor, among other constraints.
In a report published Wednesday, Raymond James & Associates analysts, Tavis C. McCourt, CFA and Daniel Toomey, CFA reduced Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) Price target from $700 to $690, citing a slowdown in growth rate as one of the main reasons for their outlook on the stock. However, the analysts remain bullish on the stock after they reiterated their Outperform rating, signifying that Apple is still one of the most , under-priced stocks in the market.
In the report, the analysts wrote, "We are maintaining our Outperform rating on shares of AAPL and lowering our price target to $690 from $700. We continue to view Apple’s growth rate as slowing, but still consistent with double-digit top line growth for the foreseeable future, and EPS growth improving as FY13 progresses. We view AAPL as attractively valued given this outlook, which does not explicitly assume iPhone launches at any unannounced carriers or new product lines".
The analysts downgraded Apple from Strong Buy to Outperform citing a slowdown in growth and still believe that the company is yet to work on improving its growth rate. Nonetheless, the analysts do value the underlying iPhone growth trend, which has so far proved to be steady and predictable.
The analysts' summary of iPhone sales through the holiday season demonstrated exceptionally strong trends in the U.S, but no radical change in areas outside the iPhone maker's country of origin. Raymond James raised their December estimates for iPhone sales from 46 million to 48 million units, but reduced the March quarter estimates from 42 million to 37 million. This produces a net reduction of 3 million units from the two quarters, which means half year sales units for the financial year 2013 are down by 3 million.
Overall, iPhone sales unit for the three quarters (post iPhone 5 launch) dropped by 2 million units from (114 million as estimated when the analysts downgraded the stock) to 112 million. Nevertheless, this represent 26 percent increase ion the number of units shipped year-over-year.
Despite the slowdown in growth rate, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Raymond James sees no threat to the company's future as its ecosystem remains a force to reckon with. Indeed it is unlikely for any epic collapse to happen. The analysts earmark that for that to happen, it would have to be something to do with the O.S or some strategy failure in the ecosystem. The analysts point Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)'s robust revenue growth rate in its iTunes/App store, which was up 30 percent in 2012 as a good testimony to the popularity of Apple's ecosystem.
The analysts wrote, "Apple’s revenue growth from its iTunes/App Store is a good proxy for popularity of its ecosystem, and rather than slowing, has accelerated in 2012 to 30%+ y/y, hardly a data point that would suggest erosion of ecosystem value. As long as usage is growing in the ecosystem, this will drive future iPhone, iPad, iPod, Mac and eventual TV sales".
Finally, following the sales ramp for the December quarter, the analysts raised their EPS estimate for the quarter from $13.36 per share to $13.81. Subsequently, the analysts lowered their estimate for the March quarter EPS from $11.86 per share to $11.01. Fiscal year 2013 EPS was cut down by approximately $1.00 per share from $46.22 to $45.21.
At the time of this writing, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock was trading at $544.40 per share, up $12.23, or 2.3o percent increase from its 2012 close. The stock is technically trading at about 26 percent discount from Raymond James' target price.