Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock has been riding on the iPhone for years now, and analysts are beginning to stop seeing the company and its products as innovative and start seeing them as just good enough to hold up the stock. Today as the company unveils the new MacBook Pro, drawing comparisons with the 15-year old PowerBook in the process, it’s starting to look a little less shiny next to the new Microsoft Surface Studio.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock is starting to look less shiny too as investors may be starting to question whether the brainwashed masses will continue to prefer iPhones and MacBooks over other products.
Apple stock’s future hangs on faith
Finding analysts who will openly admit to being bearish on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but BGC analyst Colin Gillis fits the bill. He is one of the few with a Sell rating on the stock and a bearish price target of $85 per share. The company picked up a downgrade on Wednesday following its last earnings report, even as other firms raised their price targets. However, CNBC’s Jim Cramer called out the analysts who participated in Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s earnings call for what he said looked like a lack of faith in the company and CEO Tim Cook.
In his follow-up report to investors after the iPhone maker’s earnings release, Gills queried: “How much faith do you have that unannounced products will drive revenue growth?” He went on to list several things about the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) story that he now questions.
Poking holes in the Apple story
For example, the company’s China sales plunged again during the September quarter, leaving him wondering whether there will ever be a recovery there. Also India is seen as a backup for China, but seeing as China isn’t embracing Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) anymore, India might not either. Gillis also questions whether the surge in demand for next year’s tenth anniversary iPhone will actually occur as so many are expecting.
The analyst also doubts Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) management’s assertion that the services business will blossom into a huge driver for future results. The segment delivered $6.3 billion in revenue in the September quarter for a 24% growth rate, but he believes the company is lagging in important product areas such as artificial intelligence and VR/ AR. Further, he questions whether the share buyback program that has been fueled by debt truly benefitted the company’s long-term outlook.
Apple has little to show for all that R&D spend
He also noted that the company’s research and development spending has tripled in the last five years, saying that it’s because “there are magical products coming.” However, he doesn’t see any big catalysts on the horizon such as some type of virtual reality device. He called the new Macs that were unveiled today “a small blip to results” and warned that demand for the iPhone 7 may stall out earlier in the cycle than demand for previous models did.
UBS analyst Steven Milunovich, who has a Buy rating and $127 price target on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock, said in his own report that the company’s 10-K filing reveals that demand is on track. He feels that the results, demand and margins are “not great but probably good enough.”
Nomura analyst Jeffrey Kvaal seems much more convinced that iPhone demand is where it needs to be, but he agrees that the margins leave much to be desired. The company guided for a margin of 38% to 38.5% and revenue of $76 billion to $78 billion for the December quarter. He does buy management’s comments about the importance of services revenue.
Shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock continued to slide during regular trading hours on Thursday, falling by as much as 1.05% to $114.38.