With its usual fanfare, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is set to unveil fourth-quarter results after the market finishes the day and will, as always, offer a bit of guidance on iPhone sales in the coming quarter and growth forecasts.
Wall Street analysts expect the iPhone maker to report earnings-per-share of $2.84, a prediction which would come in slightly below the $2.91 posted in the same quarter a year ago. The Street’s forecast for its revenues is $62.9 billion.
If the third quarter is any guide, the numbers could show that iPhone enthusiasts are holding onto older models longer, but remain keen on upgrades.
The spike in Apple shares – which have jumped over 12% in the last month alone – underlines investors’ confidence in the iPhone 11 as well as their bullishness on next year’s launch of a 5G phone.
“The iPhone 11 has done way better than expected before its launch,” notes Markets.com’s chief market analyst Neil Wilson. “We’ll get a first glimpse of iPhone 11 sales in Q4 – the market is expecting Apple to sound bullish on demand for the forthcoming holiday quarter.”
On the list of worries investors hope CEO Tim Cook will address after the bell are the state of sales of iPhones across China in the face of the trade wars, the protests in Hong Kong as well as sluggish growth in Asia.
“This has been a problem area for Apple but there have been more encouraging signs, particularly with the lower-priced iPhone 11 catching the interest of Chinese consumers,” adds Wilson. “Investors will also want an update on how potential tariffs will impact the business.”
Revenues from services – which account for roughly 20% of Apple’s revenue – will also draw scrutiny as Apple looks to embrace this silo of its business – with the launch of new offerings such as Apple TV+. “Key to the rerating of the stock and to support the higher multiples we’ve got now is for this division to do well,” says Wilson.
“Margins from Services is around 64%, versus roughly 31% for hardware. The question is at what point can Apple start to significantly guide its margins higher?”, he continues.
Wilson predicts this area could throw up an “upside surprise” into the year’s end as Apple is guiding gross margins of as much as 37.5% to 38.5% here for the fourth quarter.
Another arena where performance is set to be robust is Wearables, like Apple watches and ear pods, which now make up about 10% of sales.
Over at Wedbush, analysts – who have tagged the Cupertino, California company with an Outperform rating and a $265 price target – are also expecting slightly better than expected results when Apple reports at 4:30pm.
The Wedbush team thinks demand for the iPhone 11 from the Chinese is tracking roughly 15% to 20% above expectations and “will continue to be a major driver of strength over the coming quarters in our opinion which will be a focus of the conference call this week”.
On the China front, the Wedbush folks estimate that as many as 60 million to 70 million iPhones are in the ‘window of an upgrade opportunity’ and that lower pricing, improving camera tech and the struggles of Huawei to capture the high-end of the market are all boosting iPhone sales.
And Wedbush’s wider view is that iPhone units could exceed 185 million next year based on demand seen over the last few weeks.
“Despite all the perceived black clouds from being the poster child of the current US/China trade tensions, Apple is experiencing a very strong iPhone 11 demand cycle and defying many skeptics that have been yelling fire in a crowded theater over the past few months,” Wedbush analysts wrote in a note sent out Tuesday.
On top of this, with its current base of 900 million active iPhones, Wedbush analysts forecast that Apple could gain 100 million consumers in the streaming arena in the next three to four years.
And lastly, to sum it up, while Apple’s many services represent a compelling chapter of its growth, the combination of this year’s iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro launch and the arrival of next year’s 5G smartphones are still the powerful 1-2 punch that will cement its advance in the coming years.
In early afternoon trade, Apple shares slipped slightly by 0.66% to hit $241.69 as investors awaited the quarterly proclamation from Cupertino before putting a spin on the stock.