MORGAN STANLEY: Apple will not have a repeat of 2012

Morgan Stanley thinks this time is different for Apple.

Apple shares are down about 15% over the last month. And this declined triggered a downgrade of the stock from analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch earlier this week.

But in a note to clients on Thursday, Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty maintained an “Overweight” rating and $US155 price target on the stock, arguing that the company will not see a similar stock meltdown to what was experienced after a huge run-up in 2012.

“We acknowledge that with Apple building iPhone component inventory, supply chain data points are likely to be volatile as builds and shipments converge over time,” Huberty and her team write.

However, the firm cites 4 reasons why they don’t see the current set-up for Apple in the same light as the 2012/2013 position for the company that saw shares fall about 40% in less than 6 months:

  1. Gross margins are improving, not deteriorating, as the company heads into the next iPhone cycle.
  2. There’s low institutional ownership of the stock.
  3. Apple has a more competitive product line-up and a “stickier” ecosystem against Android.
  4. There’s a more robust product and services roadmap.

Morgan Stanley also addresses Apple’s position in China, which some analysts expressed concern about following the company’s latest earnings report. In the third quarter, Apple’s sales in China were up 87% from the prior year, but down from the prior quarter. Overall iPhone sales also missed expectations.

“We don’t expect Apple to be fully immune to [a] weak China,” Morgan Stanley writes, “but we’d highlight smartphones over $US300 taking share as a sign Apple is converting previously mid-market smartphone purchasers to their platform.”

The firm also notes that its AlphaWise Smartphone Tracker indicates iPhone demand of 53.5 million units in the September quarter; Morgan Stanley’s current estimate stands at 49 million.

Shares of Apple were unchanged near $US115.50 in pre-market trade on Thursday.

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