Morgan Stanley is confident that Apple Inc. (AAPL) can regain its trillion-dollar market cap status, regardless of how many new iPhones it sells.
In a research note, reported on by CNBC, the bank predicted that the tech giant’s shares could rise 27% to $211 this year based on the strength of new service offerings. Analyst Katy Huberty said the company’s plans to launch a “media bundle” would be a major driver for the stock and prove that there is life beyond the iPhone.
Apple is focusing on growing its digital services business to counter tepid smartphone sales. The company is expected to debut a video streaming service this spring, forming part of a “media bundle” that includes Apple Music and the Texture news app, the digital magazine service it acquired in March 2018.
Huberty estimated that the "media bundle" could add 2% annually to Apple’s services revenue through 2025, helping to drive a 5% revenue and 12% earnings per share annual growth rate through 2023. Morgan Stanley also believes Apple’s stock could be boosted by an expansion of its payments and advertising business and more share repurchases.
"After repurchasing $8.8 billion of stock in the December quarter, below the prior $20 billion run-rate, we see a more active buyback program helping re-rate shares, as investors better understand the stabilization path for iPhone and impact of new services," Huberty wrote.
Apple shares got hammered at the beginning of the year when CEO Tim Cook warned that tepid demand for iPhones, particularly in China, had forced the company to reassess its revenue forecasts. Since then, the company’s stock has steadily bounced back, reflecting the market’s conviction that the bad news was out the way and that the shares had been oversold.
Sentiment rose considerably later in January when quarterly results revealed that the company’s services business, described by management as the future engine of growth, helped compensate for dwindling smartphone sales.
Apple revealed that there are now 1.4 million of its active devices, including 900 million iPhones, in circulation that are capable of generating recurring revenues. Services revenues jumped 19% to a record $10.9 billion in the first quarter, giving investors reasons to believe that there’s more to Apple’s business than selling as many new iPhones as possible at high prices.