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Apple’s iPhone sales are creating a strong ‘moat’ for the tech giant, analysts say


The iPhone is still king at Apple. Analysts cheered the company’s latest quarterly results which came in above consensus expectations, thanks in large part to the company’s strong iPhone sales. Apple reported $40.7 billion in iPhone sales in the June quarter, above consensus and up nearly 3% on the year. Several analysts noted that Apple’s iPhone sales can provide protection for the company going forward, especially as uncertainty about the current macroeconomic backdrop lingers. Apple is also expected to release a new iPhone this fall. “We think AAPL remains uniquely positioned to sustain mid/high single digit sales and low/mid teens EPS growth in FY23 and potentially beyond,” wrote Evercore ISI analyst Amit Daryanani in a Thursday note entitled “building a wider moat through macro worries.” The company also announced more than $28 billion in share buybacks and gross margins of 43.26%, ahead of its own guidance of 42% to 43%. Of course, there are headwinds for Apple going forward. The company noted that foreign exchange rates due to the strong dollar weighed on the quarter. In addition, Apple didn’t give a formal guidance for its projected performance next quarter. Here’s what major analysts had to say about the report: Citi Citi increased its target price for Apple to $185 from $175 and maintained its buy rating after the earnings release. “While investors were concerned about the general slowdown in consumer spending, Apple posted an all-time high over 1.8 billion installed base which sets up well for future services sales, upgrades and replacements,” Jim Suva wrote in a Friday note. He added that despite currency headwinds due to a strong dollar, Apple is still growing. Suva then pointed to five reasons to buy the stock – the iPhone 14 launch, a skew towards middle and high-priced products, roughly $90 billion in share buybacks, services revenue and new product category launches. UBS UBS kept its $185 price target and buy rating on Apple shares, saying that the results largely met investor expectations even as foreign exchange headwinds persisted. The firm also expects the company’s stock to jump in August ahead of a fall iPhone launch. “Over the past ten years, Apple shares have returned on average ~7% in August, the best month of the year, outpacing the S & P 500 by ~ 650 bps as investor sentiment typically improves ahead of a fall iPhone launch,” wrote David Vogt in a Thursday note. Evercore Evercore sees Apple as solidly positioned going forward given that its install base is expanding, revenue is accelerating and gross margins remain more than 42%. “We would stress that AAPL revenue appear more driven by supply constraints vs. macro worries – though they did note pockets of softness due to macro (digital advertising, wearables, etc),” Daryanani said. Evercore boosted its price target to $185 from $180 and maintained its outperform rating. Bernstein Not all analysts saw the report as rosy. Bernstein maintained its market perform rating and $170 price target for Apple following its results. “The macro question remains foremost in our minds,” wrote Toni Sacconaghi in a Friday note. “Why might Apple be immune to spending shifts currently being seen among the consumer? And perhaps more importantly, why didn’t Apple elect to be somewhat more conservative in its Q4 guidance to protect from any unexpected turn to the downside?” The firm also worries that estimates for Apple’s 2023 earnings may be too high, especially if consumer spending patterns revert from strength in 2021 and 2022. “We see some opportunity for Apple to continue to outperform through its iPhone launch in September, per its historical pattern, but we believe risk/reward over the next 6 months – 2 years is neutral to modestly negative,” Sacconaghi said. JPMorgan JPMorgan reiterated Apple as a safe haven after its solid results. “iPhone revenues continue to grow y/y despite the double whammy of tough compares and weaker consumer spending backdrop, which along with Apple’s commentary relative to record switchers in the quarters, increasingly bears out the likelihood of sustainable iPhone growth through the combination of share gains as well as replacement of large and expanding installed base of devices,” Samik Chatterjee wrote in a Thursday note. “Outside of resilient Product demand, contribution from Services revenue and earnings enables high predictability and resilience of aggregate revenue/earnings for the company, delivering to the safe haven positioning for AAPL,” Chatterjee added. The firm has a $200 price target and overweight rating on the tech giant. Deutsche Bank “We are impressed with the company’s gross margin performance, which came in above the guidance range, especially given FX headwinds,” analyst Sidney Ho wrote in a Thursday note. “While AAPL did not provide revenue guidance for F4Q, management commentary suggests Products revenue should still grow y/y, which should help alleviate concerns that a decline in consumer spending could sharply impact AAPL’s revenue,” Ho added. The firm has a $175 price target and buy rating on Apple shares. Morgan Stanley Apple is still one of Morgan Stanley’s top picks. The firm has a $180 price target and overweight rating on shares. “Apple’s June Q results show clear differentiation vs. consumer hardware peers, and similar to last quarter, we believe that Apple remains a beacon of stability in an otherwise challenging market,” wrote Erik Woodring in a Friday note. “Longer-term, the shift to a more subscription-like narrative represents a key driver of upside to Apple’s current share price and pairing these short and long-term theses together is what keeps Apple as our Top IT Hardware pick for 2022.” Wells Fargo Wells Fargo also its $185 price target and overweight rating on Apple. “Most notably, Apple did not see any macro-driven demand slowdown for iPhones, but is seeing some impact to the wearables segment & some services (digital advertising),” Aaron Rakers wrote in a Thursday note. “While macro and FX remain considerable challenges, we continue to believe Apple can outperform the broader PC and smartphone markets, while also supporting shares through significant capital return.” –CNBC’s Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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