Apple could be a $1 trillion company within the next year, top analyst says

Key Points
  • Apple will become the first $1 trillion company, according to GBH Insights
  • Shares could trade between $210 and $230 over the next year, analyst Daniel Ives said
  • A "renaissance" in China, a "major upgrade cycle" thanks to the iPhone X, and the growth of the services business will drive Apple shares higher
Tim Cook
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Apple will be the first $1 trillion company within the next year thanks to the iPhone X, a "major upgrade cycle" and a "renaissance" in China, GBH Insights said in a note Thursday.

The tech giant's market capitalization — which refers to the total value of all of a company's stock in circulation — currently sits at $868.1 billion.

Analyst Daniel Ives of GBH Insights said that over the next 12 months, Apple's shares could trade between $210 and $230. At the higher end of this range, it would represent nearly 35 percent upside from Wednesday's closing price.

Ives explained the factors he expects to drive the share price higher.

Firstly, he said the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X launches will sell more than the peak iPhone 6 upgrade cycle. This would mean 258 million iPhone units for Apple's fiscal year to the end of September 2018, exceeding the record 231 million shipped in the fiscal year ending September 2015.

GBH Insights forecasts that there are over 350 million users with iPhone models that are at least two years old. A "sizeable portion" of these users could upgrade.

Could Apple hit $1 trilliion in market cap?
Could Apple hit $1 trilliion in market cap?

"It all comes down to the success and elongated demand trajectory of iPhone X over the coming quarters to determine if Apple finally ends up joining the elusive trillion dollar market cap club in 2018, in our opinion," Ives said in the note.

"To this point, the first stage of the iPhone X launch is off to a great start in what will be a crucial prove me period for Cook and Apple over the next year."

Given the upward shift in pricing of the iPhone X models, which start at $999, Ives said he expects Apple's average selling price — a key metric for investors — to rise from $643 in fiscal year 2017 to $746 in fiscal year 2018.

GBH Insights' customer checks indicate that 78 percent of Apple customers are going with the higher priced $1,149 version of the iPhone X, which has larger storage.

Services to top $50 billion

With the rising install base comes the opportunity for Apple to sell more of its services, like Apple Music. The services business, which brought in $8.5 billion of revenue in the September quarter, is "clearly the biggest area of growth," Ives said.

The analyst expects the segment could top $50 billion in revenues for the fiscal year ending September 2020.

"Representing the biggest revenue driver behind the iPhone, we believe much of the incremental services growth over the next few years will come from China as the 'halo effect' of Apple will fully manifest itself among iPhone users, especially with the iPhone X upgrade cycle kicking into full gear for FY18 in our opinion," Ives said.

Services is seen as a key growth driver for Apple in the future.

China 'renaissance' 

While Apple has struggled in China for the past year and a half, the iPhone X could bring a "renaissance" in the world's largest smartphone market, according to Ives.

GBH Insights estimates that there is an install base of 100 million iPhone users in China and that half of these are due an upgrade in the coming 12 to 18 months.

Customer loyalty, the iOS ecosystem, "high-end fashion statement," and the technological upgrades on the iPhone, are reasons Chinese consumers will upgrade, according to Ives.

China very essential for Apple: The Information's Tom Dotan
China very essential for Apple: The Information's Tom Dotan

The greater China region returned to growth for Apple in the three months to September after several quarters of declines. Revenues from Greater China were up 12 percent year-on-year to $9.8 billion.

"China's growth (and profitability) for Apple is key going forward as we view the next year as a critical time for Apple to show this will be a major growth region for the coming years," Ives said.

GBH Insights isn't the only firm to think Apple will hit $1 trillion soon. RBC put out a note in August suggestion that the Cupertino, California, giant could hit the milestone in the next 12 to 18 months.

But there are other contenders to become the first trillion dollar market cap company. Morgan Stanley said Amazon may reach the $1 trillion market value milestone in the next year.