'Houdini-like metrics move': Here's what Wall Street is saying about Apple's decision not to reveal its iPhone sales

Apple on Thursday reported underwhelming iPhone sales and gave soft guidance for its crucial holiday quarter.

The tech giant said it sold 46.9 million iPhones, which was up 0.4% versus a year ago but shy of the 48.4 million that Wall Street analysts surveyed by Bloomberg were expecting. Apple also said it would no longer reveal unit sales for its hardware.

Apple said it expected to generate revenue of $US89 billion to $US93 billion during the holiday quarter, a number on the low end of the $US92.74 billion that analysts were hoping for.

The company reported earnings of $US2.91 a share, easily beating the $US2.78 that analysts surveyed by Bloomberg were expecting. Revenue rose 19.6% year-over-year to $US62.9 billion, outpacing the $US61.44 billion that was anticipated.

Shares plunged more than 7% in after-hours trading to $US206.30 apiece. Any print below $US207.45 during Friday’s session would cost Apple its $US1 trillion valuation.

While Wall Street analysts were disappointed about Apple’s decision to withhold unit sales for hardware, they remained mostly bullish on the tech giant.

Here is what Wall Street analysts are saying about the quarter:


Jefferies — ‘We believe AAPL intends to tell a compelling Services story’

Price target: $US265

Rating: Buy

“AAPL will stop disclosing unit sales figures next qtr, fuelling fears the company has something to hide,” the Jefferies analyst Timothy O’Shea said in a note.

“But AAPL will disclose Services gross margin for the first time ever, a potential catalyst for the stock. We believe AAPL intends to tell a compelling Services story, which we believe has 2x higher gross margin than hardware and improving.”


RBC Capital Markets — ‘The bull thesis is more diluted’

YouTube/MKBHD

Price target: $US240 (from $US250)

Rating: Outperform

“AAPL reported modest upside to Sept-qtr results with no notable slowdown from China as better iPhone ASP’s and stable GM’s enabled revenue and EPS upside vs. expectations,” RBC’s Amit Daryanani said.

“The disappointment from this print will be A) their decision to stop providing iPhone units/ASP information going forward and B) Dec-qtr gross-margin guide was underwhelming vs. expectations given memory tailwinds.”

Daryanani added: “We are sticking with our OP rating, but concede the bull thesis is more diluted given risk that AAPL’s desire to stop providing iPhone unit disclosures is an attempt to hide unit declines going forward (will take a while to prove/disprove this).”


Wedbush — A ‘Houdini-like metrics move’

Price target: $US310

Rating: Outperform

“Last night Apple delivered FY4Q (Sept.) results which beat the Street from a headline number but slightly missed iPhone unit shipments which was the focus of investors,” the Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote.

“However the quarter itself took a back seat to the modestly softer December guidance that Cook & Co. gave on the heels of its much anticipated XS/XR iPhone product cycle which remains the linchpin of the Apple story for FY19. That said, the ‘jaw dropper’ last night was when Apple announced it will stop providing units/ASPs for iPhones, Macs and its other product lines. The Street will find this a tough pill to swallow this morning as the transparency of the Cupertino story takes a major dent given that tracking iPhone units has become habitual to any investor that has closely followed the Apple story for the last decade+ and is critical to the thesis.”

He added: “While last night’s ‘Houdini-like metrics move’ was a stunner, our core bullish thesis on Apple remains unchanged despite the noise this morning. We maintain our OUTPERFORM rating and $US310 price target.”


Goldman Sachs — ‘Apple is seeing better price elasticity at higher price points’

Kif Leswing

Price target: $US222

Rating: Neutral

“The midpoint of FQ1’19 (Dec’18 QTR) revenue guidance at $US91bn (range: $US89bn-$US93bn) missed our estimate by 4.3% and FactSet consensus by 2.1%, gross margin at 38.3% (range: 38.0%-38.5%) came in 0.1pp below our estimate and 0.3pp below consensus,” the Goldman Sachs analyst Rod Hall said in a note.

“The implied FQ1’19 EPS at $US4.54 (range: $US4.36-$US4.72) missed our estimate by 10.1% and cons by 7.7%. We believe consumer weakness in markets such as Turkey, Russia, India, Brazil and possibly China is driving the weaker guidance. Turkey, Russia, India and Brazil alone contributed 6% of total iPhone units in FQ1’18.”

He added: “We believe Apple is seeing better price elasticity at higher price points as its sticky base of users are willing to pay up for more features. Should Apple find even more expensive features to add to its devices that it believes add value for users we think they would not hesitate to increase high end device prices further.”


Macquarie — “More uncertainty for the stock”

Apple

Price target: $US222

Rating: Outperform

“Post AAPL 4Q results, there is more uncertainty for the stock,” Macquarie analyst Ben Schacter wrote.

“The qtr itself was mixed, with revs and earnings ahead of expectations; however, iPhone units were well below (46.9m vs 49m) but ASPs were higher ($US793 vs $US729).”

He added: “The concern, and increased uncertainty, post results is based, in part, on the fact that AAPL will no longer give unit results for iPhone, iPad, and Macs. Long time AAPL watchers will clearly be disappointed by this and the assumption is that units are very likely to turn negative for the near-mid-term and that is why AAPL is making the disclosure change. We are not as concerned about this change as others, as we have already expected virtually all of AAPL’s growth to come from Services going forward.”


SEE ALSO:

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

‘Not as spooky as feared, but ghosts remain’: Here’s what Wall Street is saying about Facebook’s decelerating growth

NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.