Despite a strong fourth quarter, Apple shares were in limbo Tuesday morning, opening at $535 before dropping 0.77% to $525. Investors seem neither elated nor disappointed, even though Apple came in well above its own guidance range.
J.P. Morgan's Mark Moscowitz didn't mince words.
"We recommend investors take advantage of any near-term weakness in shares of Overweight-rated Apple. Results and outlook were better than expected. The gross margin outlook could be a source of debate for some investors who had sought more upside due to higher mix of iPhone," he wrote in a research note. "Apple’s gross margin outlook adjusts for increasing level of deferred revenue, Fx, and higher cost structures on new products in iPhone, iPad, and Mac line ups. In our view, most of these headwinds stand to be temporary, and therefore, should not overshadow the increasing momentum in Apple’s top-line at a time when other companies are hitting rough patches."
J.P. Morgan raised its price target for Apple to $600 from $545.
BTIG's Walter Piecyk also took an optimistic view of Apple's future.
"Apple’s return to EPS growth might come earlier than expected if the company is once again able to deliver the high-end of its guidance range when it reports its fiscal first quarter in January," he wrote in a blog post. "Ironically, by that point investor concern will have undoubtedly shifted to the guidance for the March quarter which will be impacted by the timing (if ever) of the addition of China Mobile as a customer."
While Apple had set its guidance at $34-$37 billion, revenue came in at $37.5 billion, with a net profit of $7.5 billion, or $8.26 per share. That’s compared to EPS of $8.67 on revenue of $36 billion in Q4 2012. Margins remained steady at 37%, which is nothing to sneeze at.
All of those numbers handily beat Wall Street’s estimates of $7.96 on revenue of $36.95 billion—which makes this the first quarter in some two years in which Apple has actually wowed analysts. (Cue the releasing of the doves.)
The higher-than-expected earnings were directly related to high iPhone sales. Apple sold 33.8 million phones in the fourth quarter, a “record for the September quarter.” By comparison, the company sold 26.9 million phones in Q4 2012. And analysts were only expecting to see 31.2 million iPhones sold for the quarter.
IPad sales remained limp at an emasculating 14.1 million units. That’s compared to 14 million units sold in Q4 2012 and 14.6 million sold just last quarter. But that’s because the latest iPad release was timed (for some reason) at the very end of the fourth quarter and was not included in the total sales. Apple hasn’t even revealed yet how many iPad orders it has received, but given the pop in shares after the iPad event last week (over the last two years, shares have spiked preceding an unveiling event and dropped immediately following the event), the numbers have likely been high-ish.
“We’re pleased to report a strong finish to an amazing year with record fourth quarter revenue, including sales of almost 34 million iPhones,” said Tim Cook, in a statement. "We’re excited to go into the holidays with our new iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, iOS 7, the new iPad mini with Retina Display and the incredibly thin and light iPad Air, new MacBook Pros, the radical new Mac Pro, OS X Mavericks and the next generation iWork and iLife apps for OS X and iOS.”
Apple has set its Q1 2014 guidance at $55-$58 billion in revenue with margins of 36.5% to 37.5%.
Some other interesting numbers Apple revealed today:
-A study from Experian found that iPhone users spent an average of 53% more time each day on their devices than Android users.
-Another study found a 96% customer satisfaction rate among iPhone users.
-35,000 companies are now building custom apps for their workforce.
-A Changewave survey found that of those consumers who plan to purchase a tablet in the next 90 days, 55% plan to purchase an iPad, which is 4x more than the competition.
-In the UK, tablet purchases for education doubled year-over-year.
-$16 billion of the company’s total $37.5 billion revenue came from iTunes.
-Tim Cook finally addressed grumblings about the high price of the iPhone 5C, saying that Apple purposely built the device to be a mid-tier device, not an entry-level device, so grumblings and teeth-gnashing is unjustified.
image source: hdwallpapersinn.com