Even Apple (AAPL) isn’t going to make it out of this recession unscathed. So one of Apple’s most vocal bulls, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, trimmed his 2009 Apple revenue estimate today.
Munster assumes that the company will have a tougher time selling its Macs and iPods in a lousy consumer spending environment than in a normal one. He’s probably right.
Specifically, Munster thinks Apple will report $38.86 billion in fiscal 2009 revenue, down from his previous estimate of $40.45 billion, which was Wall Street’s highest, according to Yahoo Finance. That represents 20% year-over-year revenue growth, down from his previous estimate of 25% year-over-year revenue growth. (It’s still above consensus; Wall Street expects $37.23 billion, or 15% growth.)
But he really expects Apple’s sales to grow even slower — only 9%. Why? Because a big chunk of Apple’s fiscal 2009 sales are already in the bank — revenue that, for one reason or another, has been deferred. For example, Apple spreads its iPhone and Apple TV revenue over two years so it can provide its customers free software updates.
At the end of fiscal 2008, Apple said it had $4.85 billion of “current” deferred revenue, which will be recognised in fiscal 2009.
That means to get to Munster’s fiscal 2009 revenue estimate of $38.86 billion, Apple only needs to book $34.01 billion of “new” revenue. (Similarly, to get to the $32.48 billion of revenue that Apple reported for fiscal 2008, it only really needed to book $31.09 billion; $1.39 billion was deferred from fiscal 2007.)
If you remove deferred revenue from Munster’s 2009 estimate and Apple’s 2008 sales, Munster is really only expecting Apple’s sales to grow by $2.92 billion, or 9.4% year-over-year, in fiscal 2009. That’s much slower than in fiscal 2008, when non-deferred revenue grew 33% year-over-year from fiscal 2007. So his numbers — and Wall Street analysts in general — assume that Apple will get walloped.
To get there, Munster is counting on a slowdown in Apple’s iPod business, matched with a modest uptick in Mac sales and sharp growth in iPhone sales. Like Munster (and Steve Jobs), we have no idea how bad the economy will get next year, but these basic assumptions seem reasonable.