The headline looks a little bearish, granted, but it honestly may be true. The stars seem to be aligning for some big price losses in Apple’ stock. The company is set to unveil the iPhone 11 today, and it is hard to remember a time when there has been less excitement. For many reasons, including this being Apple’s last 4G phone, this model year looks to be a dud, and customer demand for it looks commensurately weak. Accordingly, the replacement cycle is likely to be poor. However, market expectations don’t seem to reflect all this, which means the stock is set up for big disappointment. Even Wall Street equity research divisions are now significantly lowering price targets for the stock.
FINSUM: The smartphone market is growing increasingly commoditized and dull and it is affecting Apple too. The company has done an admirable job diversifying, but 2020 is looking bleak for Apple.
One of the trade war’s big victims could be Apple. While much of the trade war panic has been focused on other products, Apple could be the biggest victim to suffer. The the reason why may have more to do with sentiment than with tariffs. While there is much talk of Chinese “national champions”, Apple is undoubtedly an American national champion in China, and with sentiment souring against the US in the face of the trade war, it is likely that Chinese consumers will move towards purchasing domestic smart phones. Apple will be forced to raise prices because of tariffs, which would accelerate the trade. China accounts for about 18% of Apple’s revenue and a higher percentage of its profits.
FINSUM: There could be a big hit to Apple’s top and bottom lines here. China could also take measures to specifically wound Apple the way Washington has done to Huawei. Anything seems to be fair game right now.
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.
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.