This Might Be the Most Important Metric If You Own Apple Stock

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Updated Aug. 24, 2021 5:46 p.m. ET / Original Aug. 24, 2021 4:06 p.m. ET

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Back successful April, Goldman Sachs expert Rod Hall backed distant from his semipermanent bearish stance connected Apple shares, raising his standing to Hold from Sell, and conceding that his erstwhile presumption that iPhone income would disappoint during the pandemic was “clearly wrong.” He besides conceded astatine the clip that some Mac and iPad income had materially outperformed his forecasts.

But Hall inactive has immoderate concerns astir the outlook for Apple (ticker: AAPL), arsenic reflected successful his $140 people price, astir $10 beneath the caller price. For 1 thing, helium thinks Street estimates for adjacent twelvemonth are simply excessively high. Hall projects gross for the September 2021 fiscal twelvemonth of $371.7 billion, astir $5 cardinal supra the Street consensus, and up 35% from fiscal 2020. But helium sees fiscal 2022 gross falling 4% to $356.5 billion, a projection $23 cardinal beneath the Street statement astatine $379.5 billion.

Hall provided immoderate insights connected this reasoning successful a caller probe enactment connected Tuesday, with a peculiar absorption connected Apple’s quality to thrust up mean gross per user. Hall writes that his wide presumption of Apple has been that unchangeable gross per idiosyncratic combined with “maximized” planetary idiosyncratic penetration is apt to effect successful slowing wide gross growth, a presumption reflected successful his fiscal 2022 forecast.

But helium noted that Covid provided aggregate boosts to Apple’s ARPU, which helium estimates volition summation 21% implicit the two-year play done the extremity of 2021. (That reflects his estimation of 19% maturation successful ARPU successful calendar 2021, aft 2% maturation successful 2020.) The awesome maturation stems from some surging iPhone, Mac, iPad and Wearables revenue, arsenic good arsenic beardown services revenue, owed successful portion to accelerated downloads from the App Store.

But helium sees that signifier reversing arsenic spending patterns instrumentality to mean implicit clip arsenic the pandemic ebbs.

Hall concedes that it is hard to foretell Apple idiosyncratic behaviour successful the abbreviated run. Covid has created immoderate pugnacious comps for Apple, driven by pull-forward successful hardware demand, above-average App Store spending and a demonstrated penchant for high-end versions of the iPhone and different hardware. He besides says investors request to origin successful precocious levels of user savings and the expanding worth of Apple’s products, arsenic good arsenic much flexible enactment and survey behavior. But helium nevertheless thinks that successful the agelong run, Apple volition either request to thrust up ARPU oregon accelerate subscriber maturation trends to support gross maturation supra GDP growth.

For calendar 2022, Hall sees mean gross per idiosyncratic dropping astir 12% connected a year-over-year ground – owed successful ample portion to an expected moderation of hardware sales. He projects iPhone gross volition autumn 12% successful 2022, pursuing 37% maturation successful 2021, with units down 3% and mean selling prices down 9%. He sees 2022 gross declines of 9% successful Macs and 8% successful iPads. And helium sees services gross maturation moderating to 6%, from 24% maturation successful 2021, with a betterment successful advertisement spending partially offsetting pugnacious comparisons for the App Store.

Hall besides makes the lawsuit that investors would beryllium amended disconnected looking astatine ARPU trends than trying to discern portion volumes, peculiarly fixed the institution has not really provided merchandise portion information since the extremity of fiscal 2018. He thinks fixed the deficiency of hard information connected units, “the information sources galore investors trust connected to forecast Apple’s gross implicit clip person go little accurate.”

Apple shares are down a fewer pennies connected Tuesday astatine $149.63, astir $2 beneath their all-time intraday precocious astatine $151.68.

Write to Eric J. Savitz astatine eric.savitz@barrons.com

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