HSBC just put out a big warning to investors—it is time to sell Apple stock. The news comes as a bit of a surprise because the iPhone maker has been performing well this year and there have been rumors of a big new push into healthcare. However, HSBC says investors should get out of the stock because Apple’s new services business will disappoint. The bank summarized its view this way, saying “Services makes ecosystem more sticky but won’t necessarily enable Apple to recruit more consumers to iPhone … All in, we remain far more cautious on services than some of the numbers in the street might suggest”.
FINSUM: Not only does HSBC think the new services offerings will disappoint on the top line, but they think they will be lower margin too! It is hard to speculate how this might go, but we do think this transition to services will be harder than many expect.
You certainly won’t think of it this way, but Morgan Stanley is arguing that Apple is now a great healthcare play. The bank’s research team says Apple is on the verge of a major new product that will transform the healthcare space, meaning there could be a lot of value in the stock that is not being priced in. Katy Hubert of MS says “Apple is building a healthcare ecosystem and is poised to emerge as a leader in consumer-centric healthcare … Healthcare is a large, greenfield services opportunity for Apple”. She continued, saying “Unlike recent announcements on news, gaming, video, and payments, where Apple is joining existing competitors, healthcare is a market where Apple has the potential to lead digital disruption”. The stock is up strongly this year because investors are happy with its shift to a more services-oriented business model.
FINSUM: It is hard to speculate on the potential impact without know the product, but we must say Apple does seem to have a major opportunity if it can map a healthcare product onto the hundreds of millions of users of its products in the US alone.
Apple has a big problem on its hands. While the company debuted its new suite of iPhones last year, with the largest and most expensive models getting much of the attention. One of Apple’s work horse phones, the lower priced iPhone XR, has not been selling nearly as well as Apple hoped. The phone, which is priced well under the top models, has particularly been facing weak sales in China, Apple’s most important market. Home grown competition has stolen much of the middle market which the phone is supposed to occupy.
FINSUM: This Wall Street Journal puts it nicely—the phone is being passed over by both bargain hunters and status seekers. In other words, it doesn’t have a niche.
In what comes as an almost apocalyptic announcement for Apple investors, President Trump indicated yesterday that he may impose a tariff directly on iPhones. When asked about whether he would do so, Trump said “Maybe. Maybe. Depends on what the rate is … I mean, I can make it 10%, and people could stand that very easily”. One analyst summarized the development this way, saying “The Street will not be taking this news lightly as with the litany of bad news Apple (and its investors) have seen over the last month … this tariff threat on iPhones out of left field from Trump and Beltway will surely add to this white-knuckle period for Apple”.
FINSUM: We don’t think this will happen. If Trump tried to raise iPhone prices 10% he would likely have a popular revolt (from both sides of the aisle) on his hands. He certainly doesn’t want that.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook went on the record yesterday telling the market that he feels pending regulation of the tech sector is inevitable. Cook has been a recently strong critic of the data abuses exhibited in the sector. He argued that the free market is not doing its job to protect privacy and that governmental action is necessary. In cook’s own words, “Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of regulation … I’m a big believer in the free market. But we have to admit when the free market is not working. And it hasn’t worked here. I think it’s inevitable that there will be some level of regulation . . . I think Congress and the administration at some point will pass something.
FINSUM: We have to agree with Cook about the likelihood of regulation here. The financial incentives for companies are not aligned with protecting privacy, so the government would likely need to step in to make that happen.