Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is set to release its next earnings report on Tuesday after closing bell, and the iPhone maker has received at least one downgrade going into that report. Soft data points on iPhone sales keep rolling in, although bulls are still hanging their hats on the iPhone 7, which is expected this fall.
Apple receives rare Sell rating
In a report dated July 25, BGC analyst Colin Gillis said he downgraded Apple to Sell, making him one of a very few analysts who dare to rate the iPhone giant as a Sell. His price target is an ultra-bearish $85 per share. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock fell by as much as 1.56% to $97.12 during regular trading hours on Monday following his downgrade.
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Gillis’ main argument seems to be that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has lost its creative mojo, transporting us back to 2013 when this was a widely-held concern. He noted that expectations for the June quarter are quite low and that consensus sits at the midpoint of management’s guide. As a result, he said it’s possible that Apple stock will rally on tomorrow’s earnings report. However, he believes that the company will lost its next $100 billion of value rather than gain it. He warns that the iPhone 7 could underwhelm, even though bulls talk up the huge size of the install base, which is now about 1 billion active devices.
AAPL has peaked, says Gillis
He believes that the five years management has had to deliver a new blockbuster device is enough and notes that the only new category that has emerged is the Apple Watch, which hasn’t done well. While many analysts believe the iPhone 7 will bring a return to growth, Gillis believes it could be even worse than the iPhone 6s cycle.
The BGC analyst said “peak Tim Cook” occurred on February 23, 2015 when Apple’s valuation reached a new record $775 billion. He notes that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock has lost about $235 billion of value even though the company has bought back $117 billion worth of shares, with the share repurchases over the last six quarters all coming at higher average prices than where the stock is trading at now.
Gillis warns that consensus estimates for the September and December quarters could be revised downward. Additionally, he describes the company’s software products as “lackluster” and believes that the company peaked under Cook’s leadership.
Is there any hope for the iPhone 7?
While Gillis may be Apple’s biggest bear, Drexel Hamilton analyst Brian White may be the iPhone maker’s biggest bull. He believes the summer will end up being the bottom for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock and for its sales, profits and iPhone units as well. He’s projecting $42.05 billion in sales and adjusted earnings of $1.37 per share, which puts him a little behind the consensus estimates of $42.12 billion and $1.38 per share. Apple management guided for between $41 billion and $43 billion in sales, which implies earnings of about $1.37 per share at the midpoint.
White predicts a return to iPhone unit growth for the second quarter of fiscal 2017 and for the full 2017 fiscal year. He has a Buy rating and $185 price target on the company’s stock.
UBS analyst Steven Milunovich also has a Buy rating on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock but a much lower $115 price target. He warns that the iPhone 7 may end up being no better than the iPhone 6s in the U.S., citing a survey by 451 Research, which suggested that interest levels were similar to interest in the iPhone 6s. He adds that in general, interest in buying smartphones is at the lowest level since 2008 in North America, which only makes matters worse for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL).