As the date of Apple’s next earnings report approaches (set for Oct. 27), analysts are busily preparing their estimates of how many iPhones the company sold. As always, there are lots of data points to consider.
UBS ups iPhone estimate
Apple only recorded a couple days of sales for the newest iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus, so there isn’t going to be much of an impact from the new phones in the September quarter. Apple did disclose that it set another record for opening weekend sales with 13 million iPhones sold, however.
UBS analyst Steven Milunovich released his final estimates for the third quarter based on data collected by the UBS Evidence Lab. He said the Evidence Lab iPhone Monitor for the quarter indicates demand for 55.1 million iPhones, based on search volumes. As a result, he raised his unit estimate from 49 million to 50 million based on search volumes. However, he’s hesitant in moving his estimate higher because Apple had only two days to sell the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus before the quarter ended.
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The analyst noted that consensus estimates suggest Apple only sold 47.5 million iPhones. Also because of his higher iPhone unit estimates, his revenue estimate is $2 billion higher than the high end of Apple management’s sales guidance. He ticked his earnings per share estimate up slightly from $2 to $2.02 per share after reducing his average selling price estimate because of currency headwinds.
Apple looking good in China
Milunovich also reported that search volumes for the iPhone in China look “solid,” although they did decelerate during the September quarter. He noted that Apple CEO Tim Cook reported continued strength in China despite the macroeconomic challenges that have rocked the overall market there.
The UBS analyst also said his Evidence Lab data suggests that Apple is penetrating multiple income levels in China as consumers are just buying more expensive phones. He added that Apple has the highest commitment level according to brand. However, he will continue watching China carefully because the company provides 60% of Apple’s revenue and accounts for 70% of total growth in profits.
Other helps for Apple
He also updated his model by adding in the iPhone 6S and iPad Pro, but he does expect to make more changes as the product mix and teardown details continue to pour out. He’s expecting just a modest improvement in fiscal 2016 earnings per share even though there’s a three-point increase in revenue, which brings it to 9%. The reason for this is a “slightly more conservative” gross margin, which he said has offset the iPad Pro’s contributions.
He’s assuming a 12% decline in iPad units in fiscal 2016 but a 9% increase in iPad revenue due to a 13% mix contribution from the more expensive iPad Pro.
Milunovich maintained his $150 per share price target and Buy rating on Apple.
All graphs in this article are courtesy UBS.