Apple's Near-Term Uncertainty (Update 1)

TheStreet.com

Updated from 9:04 a.m. EST to provide analyst comments regarding new products in the sixth paragraph.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The gang of Wall Street analysts continue to move in a herd, with the latest Apple estimate cut coming from Oppenheimer.

Analyst Ittai Kidron lowered his earnings estimates for 2013 and 2014, as he does not see any near-term catalysts for the company. His earnings per share estimates for 2013 went to $44.38 from $45.22, while 2014 was lowered to $49.77 from $50.20.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect Apple to earn $44.18 in 2013 and $49.74 in 2014. Kidron kept his "outperform" rating, but lowered his price target to $550, down from $600.


"We see risk to consensus and are lowering our March/June estimates while raising Sept. Much of the revision appears built into investor expectations, and we don't see much downside pressure from a potential June miss," Kidron wrote in his report. "However, we also don't see much of a NT positive catalyst until we get closer to the product cycle or get more clarity on Apple's cash intentions."

It's been rumored that Apple will announce a new iPhone later this summer, and perhaps a new iPad as well. There's also been speculation that Apple will update the iPad mini later this year, though nothing has been confirmed.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster wrote that he had been expecting an April event from Apple, but believes the next product launch could be in June. "Even if Apple were to host an April event, we would not expect the event to have a measurable impact on shares given the event would likely focus on incremental upgrades to iPad and/or iTunes," Munster wrote in the report. He rates Apple "overweight" with a $767 price target.

Though near-term catalysts aren't easily defined, per Kidron, and the potential for a June quarter earnings miss is there, the long-term future of the company is not in doubt. There just needs to be something concrete when it comes to a catalyst. That could be either "a more concrete iPhone/iPad refresh timetable," or an announcement about the company's cash hoard.


Apple has been in the spotlight in recent months over the $137 billion in cash on its balance sheet. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn brought the issue to the spotlight, calling out Apple's management, and saying the company should issue preferred stock to unlock the value of its cash hoard.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the company is in "very, very active" discussions on what to do with its cash.

Apple shares closed lower in Tuesday trading, finishing off 0.54% to $461.08.

--Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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