Does Wall Street have the knives out for Apple?
By Chantal Tode
January 24, 2013
Call it the Apple conundrum. While the company’s stock value dropped because the numbers were slightly below analysts' expectations, the manufacturing giant is selling more mobile devices than ever before and making money hand over fist. So why the disappointment?
Apple sold 47.8 million iPhones and 22.9 million iPads for its fiscal first quarter, which ended Dec. 29 - new all-time quarterly records for each - and broke its own record for quarterly revenue, which came in at $54.5 billion. Yet, reports suggest Apple had a disappointing quarter.
“If you normalize the numbers [because the 2012 quarter had an extra week], Apple grew revenue 27 percent in the first quarter, which for a $100 billion company is kind of amazing,” said Carl Howe, vice president of research and data sciences at Yankee Group, Boston.
“They made a ton of money,” he said. “I suspect they are not terribly concerned regardless of what Wall Street is saying.
“They had $13.1 billion in earnings – that doesn’t pass the world record but it comes close.”
Volume vs. revenue
While Apple financial results are always big news, the latest earnings seemed to be even more highly anticipated than usual mostly because there have been rumblings that the company is losing some of its luster, both with consumers and the financial community.
Analysts are coming down on the company in part because they do not understand the mobile industry, per Mr. Howe. The financial community is focused on unit volume and, on those terms, Samsung is moving more product than Apple when less-expensive feature phones are taken into account.
However, consumer use is quickly moving toward more profitable smartphones and tablets, where Apple has a commanding lead.
“Wall Street doesn’t understand the company and they don’t understand the business model,” Mr. Howe said. “Volume is all that counts to them but the last time I checked, Apple was making 65 percent to 75 percent of all the profit in the mobile phone business.”
Analysts had expected Apple to ship 50 million iPhones during the quarter instead of the 47.8 million it reported moving while iPad shipments were pretty much on par with expectations. Quarterly revenues of $54.5 billion also came in slightly below the $54.73 billion that analysts reportedly were expecting.
Apple also did not meet revenue expectations in the previous two quarters.
Coupled with reports of production cutbacks at Apple’s component suppliers and some are interpreting the data to suggest that demand is weakening for Apple products.
Additionally, some have said Apple is losing its innovative edge.
“It is hard to justify that with the facts,” Mr. Howe said.
“They have the world’s best-selling smartphone – how is that not innovating,” he said. “It has only been on the market four months.
“They refreshed their entire product line last October.”
A PR issue?
What appears to be a growing image problem for Apple may stem from its public relations department not doing a good enough job managing the transition to new CEO Tim Cook following the death of the much–loved Steve Jobs, who passed away in 2011, with Mr. Cook taking the blame for Apple’s perceived troubles since.
“The number two record in the entire world for earnings in a quarter and they are pillorying him,” Mr. Howe said. “By most CEO standards that would get you a bonus.”
Apple’s first quarter results show the company sold over 75 million iOS devices during the quarter.
Apple’s influence overseas continues to gain, with the company reporting that international sales accounted for 61 percent of the quarter’s revenue.
“The mobile industry is more like the car industry now,” Mr. Howe said. “If Toyota has a hit, GM may have a bigger hit next week.
“The thing to watch is how they are doing financially as a business,” he said. “Apple is the business that makes money and, at some point, the stock market will recognize that.”
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York
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