- Apple is set to report its fiscal first quarter 2021 earnings on Wednesday.
- Some analysts are already expecting the company to post a strong season partly due to pent-up iPhone demand.
- Morgan Stanley analysts said the company "is likely to report all-time record quarterly revenue and earnings."
Apple is set to report its fiscal first quarter 2021 earnings next week, and analyst expectations are bullish.
The company failed to excite investors in its fourth quarter, which ended Sept. 26, due to weak iPhone sales. But the weakness was likely because people were waiting for the new iPhone 12, which didn't go on sale until October.
The company's stock was trading above $136 a share, up more than 3% on Thursday morning amid broader market gains.
Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note Thursday that they expect a record December quarter.
"Our recent conversations suggest investors expect Apple to release solid, but not great, December quarter results. We disagree and believe that Apple is likely to report all-time record quarterly revenue and earnings," the analysts wrote, raising their price target to $152 from $144. "In our view, the iPhone 12 has been Apple's most successful product launch in the last 5 years."
The firm pointed to strength across Apple's product and services portfolio, driven by 5G adoption, continued remote work and learning and sustained App Store engagement. Analysts added they expect double-digit annual growth for Apple's five revenue segments in the December quarter.
"Overall, our December quarter revenue of $108.2B is 5% above consensus (we are ahead of consensus in every segment but Services), while our EPS of $1.50 is 7% above consensus," they said. "We expect demand strength to continue and our FY21 revenue and EPS estimates are both 5% above consensus."
The firm said Thursday that the stock "looks delicious," and it put its price target of $133 under review.
"As we have stated previously, we believe Apple's first lineup of smartphones on 5G networks are better positioned than investors completely appreciate for the following reasons: 1) carrier support, 2) favorable discretionary income, and 3) 1B working remotely and 1B learning remotely. Further, we attribute the recent strength in shares to investors warming up to this notion," DA Davidson analyst Tom Forte wrote.
The firm said it will pay attention to iPhone sales trends, comments on privacy and advertising, and potential implications of the new Biden administration.
"We project sales to increase 15.7% to $106,236M, which is above the consensus forecast of $102,563M," the firm said. "Note, Apple did not give formal guidance, but it did expect double-digit growth for all product categories expect iPhone, which it expects single-digit growth. On profitability, we estimate $33,525M of EBITDA (for a 31.6% margin), which is above the consensus figure of $31,763M. Lastly, we project GAAP EPS of $1.52, compared to the consensus estimate of $1.40."
The firm expects Apple to post strong iPhone sales, but said there's little surprise due to a likely strong iPhone 12 cycle. The analysts, including Toni Sacconaghi, raised their first-quarter EPS estimates to $1.53 and FY21 EPS to $4.26 due to higher iPhone average selling prices, a weaker U.S. dollar and strong Mac/iPad sales.
"While our estimates are above consensus, we believe our numbers are relatively in line with buyside expectations," the analysts said. "We expect Apple to provide 'guidelines' rather than 'guidance' for Q2, but are above consensus, likely due to currency, and our expectation for modestly stronger than normal seasonality due to timing of the iPhone 12 rollout."
The firm said it would pay attention to Apple's comments on potential smartphone share gains, ongoing regulatory concerns, and Apple's new services adoption and advertising, but said Apple needs something bigger to outperform expectations.
"AAPL has had a tremendous run, and trades in line with large tech companies with higher growth rates. At 33x consensus 21 EPS, and buyside expectations above the Street's, we struggle to see case for material outperformance in AAPL, absent a surprise product announcement or migration to a bundled hardware subscription model," they wrote.