Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) reports its March quarter earnings later this month, and all eyes will be on the company’s guidance for its June quarter. Analysts at Barclays PLC (NYSE:BCS) (LON:BARC) issued a report to investors on Tuesday analyzing their expectations for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s June guidance.
Like analysts at Evercore, they said the most important part of that guidance will be the company’s gross margins. However, they also said that if Apple’s earnings report is poor, the company could mitigate the resulting investor reactions by adding a bit of good news to it.
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March’s report is the first that will follow Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s changed practices of reporting a range of possibilities rather than just a baseline expectation. Analysts at Barclays said it’s difficult to predict what kind of reaction investors will have to Apple’s guidance because it could come along with a plan for increasing the return of cash to investors.
In their view, they “wouldn’t be surprised” if Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s June guidance was between $8 and $8.25 per share “if sales don’t pick up.” However, they expect investors to be happy if Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) keeps its June guidance for gross margins above 35 percent, even as iPhone sales fall quarter over quarter while component costs rise. They believe that if Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) even “hints” that gross margins will dip below 35 percent and remain that way into the launches of its new products, then the company’s stock could drop down to $400 per share.
According to Barclays PLC (NYSE:BCS) (LON:BARC), the “real unknown” however is what the company will say about its cash policy. Apple hasn’t announced any buyback or dividend increases even though it has indicated that cash return is imminent. They believe that the company could be simply sitting on the good news so that it will come out “packaged” with the bad news of poor earnings.
As a result, they say the investor response to the next earnings report will be difficult to predict because investors may already be expecting a poor earnings report. In short, it’s anyone’s guess whether news about increased cash return will be enough to tip the scales over to positive stock price gains.
In terms of cash returns, Barclays analysts believe Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) could double its capital returns if it “makes complete use of its balance sheet,” possibly by boosting its dividend up over $14.75 per share, or a 3.4 percent yield based on the stock’s current price. They also believe Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) could increase its stock repurchases by $30 billion within the next three years at the same time.
Trading on shares of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) was mostly flat Tuesday.