Analysts from at least two firms have raised their price targets for Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock, with one reassuring investors that China sales will recover in fiscal 2018 and the other boosting her target for higher multiples. Interestingly, the two analysts disagree about whether the iPhone 8 cycle will be a “super cycle” or not.
Apple (AAPL) stock to $154 for China
Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty nudged her price target on Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock up from $150 to $154 based on a higher estimate for iPhone 8 unit numbers. The general consensus in the tech and financial worlds is that the company will release two standard upgrades (the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus) and one higher-end upgrade with an AMOLED display. The iPhone 8 is believed to be a special tenth anniversary addition with a load of new features, including a curved form factor, battery life improvements, wireless charging, 3D sensors, better artificial intelligence software and more.
The core of Huberty’s bullish thesis is China, where the base of older iPhones is quite large.
She analyzed the number of older iPhones, loyalty rates and purchase intention share for various brands in China and now believes that two main factors will drive growth there in fiscal 2018. Her view also runs against the Street’s concerns about Apple Inc. (AAPL)’s diving sales in China.
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The first is that the size of the older iPhone base sets the market up for major upgrades. The iPhone took off in 2015, the first year a new iPhone was launched on China Mobile’s network. This means that the base of iPhones that are two years old is more than double the last “supercycle.”
Huberty’s AlphaWise smartphone survey found a 74% retention rate for Apple Inc. (AAPL), and even after that, the number of expected upgrades reaches 43 million, which is double from 2016.
The Morgan Stanley analyst also believes the iPhone maker will take users from Chinese smartphone brands, as her survey suggests one-fifth of Chinese users with a domestic brand smartphone will switch to an iPhone when they buy their next device.
Based on these two factors, she now estimates that Apple Inc. (AAPL) will ship 72 million iPhones in China in fiscal 2016, compared to the current run-rate of 27 million. However, Wall Street is only looking for a global increase of 19 million iPhones. Based on this upside, Huberty’s bull case for Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock now stands at $190 per share—if the company’s iPhone shipments reach the high end of her estimate range, which stands at 20% to 30% growth globally. For the full year, she expects global iPhone shipments of 260 million, which is toward the low end of that range.
Apple (AAPL) stock target boosted but Hold rating reiterated
Huberty reiterated her Overweight rating on Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock, while Deutsche Bank analyst Sherri Scribner maintained her Hold rating. However, Scribner also raised her price target for Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock, moving from $115 to $125 per share. And while Huberty continues to argue the iPhone 8 “supercycle” case, Scribner feels that the next iPhone cycle will be “hardly a ‘super cycle.'”
Her view contrasts with Huberty’s views quite nicely, as she is cautious about the widespread argument for an installed base that’s ripe for an upgrade. She noted that the global smartphone market has been decelerating, and refresh cycles have been getting longer.
Deutsche Bank’s supply chain checks suggest 134.5 million iPhone units will be produced in the second half of this year, a 5% increase from the first half. It would be good, as last year’s supply chain shipments fell 12% from the first to second half of the year. However, in previous years, iPhone production grew by more than 20% year over year in the second half, which she said is “a far cry from what many are calling a ‘super cycle.'”
iPhone 8 demand may be limited by price
Scribner is also concerned about the reports that the iPhone 8 will be priced between $900 and $1,000, as she isn’t sure many consumers will be willing or able to fork over so much money for their next phone.
She feels such a high price will limit demand, even though it should help average selling prices. She estimates that smartphones priced at or above $700 were only 10% of the total units shipped last year, and this part of the market declined 19% year over year. Further, the average selling price for a new phone in the fourth quarter was only $303.
The Deutsche Bank analyst feels that Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock is fully valued right now, although she boosted her price target because market multiples have moved higher. Shares of Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock ticked higher by as much as 0.41% to $136.28 during regular trading hours on Tuesday.