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Citi: Thinner lines, quicker ship times mean Apple's iPhone 8 sales will fall short

  • Citi Research reduces its September quarter Apple financial estimates, predicting lower-than-expected demand for the iPhone 8 will cause the company to miss the Wall Street consensus.
  • "We do expect volatility ahead as consensus estimates calibrate to a lower than expected September quarter given slightly more tempered demand ahead of iPhone X launch (Nov 3rd) coupled with supply constraints for iPhone X," the firm's analyst writes.

Apple's rollout of two major iPhone models this year may cause short-term issues for the company, according to one Wall Street firm.

Citi Research lowered its earnings and sales estimates for Apple's September quarter, predicting lower-than-expected demand for the iPhone 8 will cause the company to miss the Wall Street consensus.

"We are reducing our F4Q17 (Sept) to reflect more modest iPhone 8 and 8 Plus demand. Checks in US/Europe indicated similar demand patterns to those observed in Asia and Australia … i.e. modest crowds but definitely thinner than in the past while ship times for the devices ordered online were also quicker," analyst Jim Suva wrote in a note to clients Monday.

"We are not surprised that current ship times are quicker and lines shorter than prior launches, as we believe users will wait to compare to iPhone X before making a final purchase."

The iPhone X will be available Nov. 3 at a base model price of $999, while the iPhone 8 launched last week.

Suva reiterated his buy rating and his $170 price target on Apple shares, which is 12 percent higher than Friday's close.

Customers inspect new iPhone 8 and plus models at a telecom shop in Omotesando Avenue in Tokyo, Japan on September 22, 2017.
David Mareuil | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Customers inspect new iPhone 8 and plus models at a telecom shop in Omotesando Avenue in Tokyo, Japan on September 22, 2017.

The analyst revised his September quarter sales and earnings per share forecasts for Apple to $49.5 billion and $1.79 from $50.9 billion and $1.88 a share, respectively, compared with the Wall Street average of $50.9 billion and $1.88 a share.

"We do expect volatility ahead as consensus estimates calibrate to a lower than expected September quarter given slightly more tempered demand ahead of iPhone X launch (Nov 3rd) coupled with supply constraints for iPhone X," he wrote.

Apple has lost nearly $50 billion in market value since the company announced its latest line of products on Sept. 12.

Despite recent weakness this month, Apple is still one of the market's best-performing large-cap stocks so far this year. Its shares have rallied 31 percent through Friday versus the S&P 500's 12 percent gain.

Suva is still bullish on Apple shares over the long run.

"We believe Apple can return to sustainable growth post iPhone X. We see growth opportunities in Services (in-app purchasing, Apple Pay, iCloud, Apple Care, etc.) and India, aka Applewood, as underappreciated," he wrote. "Despite the outperformance this year, shares remain attractively valued relative to the market and can undergo sustainable multiple expansion."

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple shares are down 1 percent in Monday's premarket session after the report.