Only Apple Inc. (AAPL) knows for sure how iPhone sales did during its fiscal second quarter but one Wall Street analyst has his doubts, urging investors to brace for an earnings disappointment out of the company.
In a research report, Nomura Instinet analyst Jeffrey Kvaal predicted the Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker will report earnings and sales that fall short of expectations. Apple is slated to weigh in with fiscal second-quarter results on May 1.
Estimates Likely to Fall on Weak iPhone Demand
"We believe the investors have sufficiently dissected the key near-term drivers of the shares. Consensus estimates are likely to fall on weak iPhone demand," Kvaal wrote in the note to investors. “We do not (yet) anticipate new positive catalysts, note the shares’ recent resilience, and retain our Neutral stance.” (See more: Apple To Launch Magazine Subscription Service.)
The analyst, who has a $175 price target on the stock, said channel checks show that year-over-year domestic shipments by international vendors including China were down 9% in the March quarter. He said that jives with the overall demand picture in which data points from U.S. operators “remained uninspired” during the first three months of the year. “The lower shipments suggest that Apple’s Greater China revenues should be at the very least a significant drag on our overall estimate of 18% iPhone revenue growth in F2Q,” wrote Kvaal. “China revenues could fall as much as 28% YoY.”
What’s more, Kvaal said results could come in below his estimates, which have already been lowered. For the fiscal second quarter, the Wall Street firm is looking for iPhone shipments of 53.5 million units and earnings per share of $2.69. For the fiscal third quarter, the analyst is forecasting shipments of 43 million iPhones and earnings per share of $2.12. He warned that while the 43 million unit forecast for the June quarter is low, Apple could target less than that, in the 40 million unit range. With a $175 price target, the analyst thinks the stock could decline a little more than 1% this year. Apple is up nearly 3% so far in 2018.
As for any potential catalysts to move the shares higher, Kvaal said there will be little upside from what Apple has to say about plans for its massive cash pile thanks to the tax reform bill. (See more: Apple Could Easily Double Dividend.)
While he said Apple’s cash position and what it will do with it has been a factor in the stock’s outperformance, most of the parameters of the plan are already established. With just the details left to reveal, he doesn’t expect remarks on the position to drive the stock much higher.