The Street is getting a little worried about
Not that anything terrible is likely to happen when Apple (ticker: AAPL) reports fiscal fourth-quarter financial results after the close of trading on Thursday. Street estimates call for revenue of $84.9 billion and earnings of 73 cents a share in the September quarter, and there is every reason to think the company will continue its recent pattern and blow away what are likely conservative analyst expectations. June quarter results beat Street revenue estimates by nearly $10 billion and earnings topped consensus by about 30%.
But the stock is suffering from an assortment of nagging woes that likely won’t be resolved with this week’s earnings report. While it would hardly be shocking to see another strong quarter of iPhone sales, keep in mind that Apple CFO Luca Maestri three months ago warned that component issues were intensifying, with a potential impact in the quarter on iPhone and iPad sales. There have also been repeated recent reports of iPhone 13 shortages, reportedly tied to tight supplies of the camera modules used in the high-end versions of the new phone lineup.
Apple has unveiled a flurry of new products recently, including updated iPhones, Macs, iPads and AirPods, and that should help bolster results for the December quarter. For that period, the Street consensus calls for revenue to jump to $119.7 billion with earnings of $1.41 a share. But since Apple seems unlikely to move off its Covid-era practice of not providing quarterly guidance, nervousness about the holiday quarter will remain.
It’s telling that Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty, long one of the Street’s most influential bullish voices on the stock, is telling investors that this week’s earnings report isn’t likely to settle the current debate on Apple—and won’t likely serve as a catalyst for the stock.
To be clear, Huberty expects results to again crush consensus estimates. She expects revenues of $88.2 billion, more than $3 billion above consensus, and she sees continued strength in iPhone, iPads, and Macs.
Street consensus calls for September quarter iPhone revenue of $41.2 billion; revenue of $8.8 billion for iPads; $9.1 billion for Macs; $9.4 billion for wearables, home and accessories; and $17.7 billion for services.
Huberty predicts that estimates will move higher on Thursday’s report, but she doesn’t think that will provide any lift to the stock.
“Investors will be more focused on the December quarter outlook given September results only include a small portion of iPhone 13 shipments,” Huberty writes in a research note. “And while we are constructive on the December quarter outlook despite recent negative supply chain headlines, we don’t expect Apple to provide a formal revenue guidance range.”
Huberty also notes that “a number of important questions” remain regarding both potential changes in the company’s App Store business model and the sustainability of iPhone growth given more difficult comparisons ahead.
“With shares trading just 5% below Apple’s trailing 52-week high, we believe investors are more likely to wait for clarity on these topics before potentially re-engaging,” she writes. “So, while we remain bullish on Apple’s FY22 outlook and expect estimates to move higher post earnings, we just don’t see earnings alone as a material stock catalyst.”
Apple shares on Wednesday were off 0.2% to $148.98.
Write to Eric J. Savitz at [email protected]