Analysts still upbeat about Apple

Most analysts are looking beyond the drop in Apple's share price to upcoming new products and growth in emerging markets such as China and India.
Most analysts are looking beyond the drop in Apple's share price to upcoming new products and growth in emerging markets such as China and India.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Forget that Apple iPhone sales were not as strong as many had expected; that the revenue forecast fell short of the average estimate, and that there was no clarity on Apple Watch sales.

Analysts, for the most part, remain as upbeat as ever on Apple Inc after investors knocked more than US$65 billion (S$89 billion) off the company's market value in initial reaction to the company's quarterly results last Tuesday.

Growth in emerging markets such as China and India, where many believe Apple is likely to take market share from Android phones, is a key reason for optimism, analysts said.

"We believe the company is positioned to exploit the rise of the middle class in these geographies over the next several years," William Blair analyst Anile Doral, who has an "outperform" rating on Apple, wrote in a client note.

Apple shares, which have risen almost 19 per cent this year, closed down 4.3 per cent at US$125.14 last Wednesday, the stock's biggest intra-day percentage fall since last December.

The US tech giant reported that its profit jumped 38 per cent to US$10.7 billion on surging iPhone sales, compared to US$7.7 billion in the same period last year.

Nevertheless, Apple shares fell sharply in after-hours trading, at one point down around 8 per cent, as traders noticed lower-than-expected sales forecasts.

Only one of 20 brokerages that issued reports assessing Apple's earnings cut its rating on the stock. Of the rest, 15 kept their "buy" or equivalent rating and four a "hold".

"We believe Apple's future prospects have never been brighter," Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Brian White said in a research note, maintaining his "buy" rating.

Sales of iPhones have been powering Apple's profits, and any hint of a plateau spooks investors. It sold 47.5 million iPhones in the quarter, with sales up 85 per cent in Greater China where the firm's overall revenue more than doubled to US$13 billion, said chief financial officer Luca Maestri.

Big gains in China came despite stock market woes there. "We remain extremely bullish on China and we are continuing to invest," Apple chief Tim Cook said, remaining confident that China is poised to be Apple's biggest market at some point in the future.

Apple is now looking to build on a 93 per cent increase in its iPhone sales in India for April-June, which for the first time outpaced growth in China - albeit from a low base.

Apple has just a 2 per cent share of India's smartphone market, while South Korean rival Samsung Electronics accounts for around one third of volume sales with its range of Android phones.

"Apple is consciously expanding its distribution in India and pushing its products aggressively," said Mr Jaideep Mehta, managing director for India and South Asia at tech research firm IDC.

Most analysts looked beyond the immediate disappointment. "With a new iPhone around the corner, the seasonally stronger quarters ahead and a possible Apple TV update, coupled with valuation, we would be buyers on weakness," said analysts at Robert W. Baird, who rate the stock "outperform".

J.P. Morgan analyst Rod Hall was among those who said the stock's fall had been overdone, noting among other things the better-than-expected average selling prices for iPhones in the quarter. REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2015, with the headline 'Analysts still upbeat about Apple'. Print Edition | Subscribe