Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock pulled back meaningfully on Friday as investors began to consider that perhaps iPhone 7 sales aren’t going as well as they were led to believe by strong data from U.S. carriers. The shares have yet to pick up enough steam to post any meaningful gains this week, and analysts are split on what to do with them. Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees last week’s pullback in Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock as a buying opportunity, but KGI analysts warn that fewer iPhone 7 units could be sold this year than the number of iPhone 6s units that were sold last year.
What really set Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock ablaze recently was the string of reports from major U.S. carriers stating that demand for the iPhone 7 was much stronger than what they saw in the early weeks of the iPhone 6s. Most analysts were thrilled with the reports and reacted by raising their price targets for Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock. However, not all were convinced, with a few calling out the fact that Verizon, the largest carrier, didn’t see exceptional preorder activity.
Some also noted that there was no data from outside the U.S., although that changed on Friday, with third parties reporting a 25% year over year decline in international sales for the iPhone 7’s first weekend. Apple Inc. (AAPL) declined to release preorder and first weekend sales data for this year’s lineup because it feels as if supply is constrained, but third parties were quick to fill the void.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Wamsi Mohan and team weighed in on the debate in a report dated September 25. They stated that third-party data for first weekend sales of the iPhone 7 is not a good indicator of demand. For one thing, Friday’s data pertaining to international markets does not include sales through Apple stores. It also doesn’t include online sales, nor does it account for supply constraints. In short, the BAML team doesn’t feel this is an apples-to-apples comparison.
They believe that the first weekend of iPhone sales data is usually very noisy. They see a “more reasonable comparison” in this year’s third-party data is a year over year decline of 9% in unit sales for launch weekend, although they add that this also doesn’t account for supply constraints.
They say that Japan, with its 25% year over year decline, had fewer sell-out retail locations with the iPhone 7 Plus compared to the iPhone 6s Plus last year. Further, the reporting party said the number of retailers shipping the iPhone 7 Plus over launch weekend was down 25% in multiple countries, but the BAML team noted that the data indicates that even though supply was constrained and Apple Inc. (AAPL) has a lower presence in the U.K., demand was up there year over year.
Mohan and team pointed out that Apple Inc. (AAPL) recently opened its 41st retail store in China, and they believe the company might have heavily stocked its retail stores in the country and sold more iPhones through its own stores. They believe this could account for what appears to be weakness in China. Additionally, they see the timing relative to Golden week last year as being a factor. Finally, they also note that demand for the iPhone 7 Plus appeared to have climbed more than 25% year over year in China compared to the iPhone 6s Plus last year, although demand for its smaller counterpart appeared to have declined significantly.
After analyzing the data and adding their own take, the BAML team feels that the pullback in Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock presents an “attractive” buying opportunity for investors.
Longbow analyst Shawn Harrison also feels Wall Street is underestimating how many iPhone 7 units Apple Inc. (AAPL) will sell and sees room for upside of 2 million to 3 million units based on production. They also report that Google Search trends for the iPhone 7 are tracking closer to the trends around the iPhone 6 launch, meaning there will likely be a vast improvement over what was observed with the iPhone 6s last year.
KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo also raised his unit estimates to 75 million from 65 million. He believes the reason the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus appear to be supply constrained is because Apple launched them in a greater number of countries at the very beginning compared to the iPhone 6s launch last year. Also carriers have been aggressively promoting the phones this year. However, he also believes that this year’s iPhone is getting off to a slower start than the 6s did last year, with sales of the 7/ 7 Plus coming up short of the 6s/ 6s Plus in the last roughly three months of the year.
Shares of Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock edged upward by as much as 0.16% to $112.91 during regular trading hours on Monday.