Bull vs. Bear: Will Apple’s New Streaming Service Mean Upside for Investors?
Apple has certainly been the apple of Wall Street’s eye today.
The tech giant’s stock popped almost 3% by intraday trading Wednesday, and if you were on the internet in any way, shape, or form yesterday, you probably know why—Apple (ticker: AAPL) showcased a variety of new products including new iPhones and, perhaps most talked about, the price of their new streaming service Apple TV+. (You can get a full recap here).
The notable shift to services (including Apple Arcade and the aforementioned Apple TV+) shows the company isn’t just a one-trick pony. In fact, the astonishingly low price of their TV service (at $4.99, which is below Street estimates of $7.99-$9.99 and the major streaming services) is making many analysts bullish.
But not everyone sees upside. Apple’s struggles in China over the past year have weighed on the company, the trade war is hitting the tech giant hard, and the threat of additional tariffs could further weaken China sales for the tech behemoth. Plus, the departure of Apple’s Jony Ives earlier this year had many on edge about the direction of the company moving forward.
Is Apple’s eye-catching cheap streaming service and new tech enough to stave off the weight of more tariffs? Here’s the Bull vs. Bear case.
Analyst Tom Forte at D.A. Davidson covers Apple and 22 other companies, and currently has a ‘buy’ rating on the company with a price target of $270 per share.
Overall, we left the event more confident in the company’s long-term ability to reduce its dependence on iPhone sales, including via its efforts in: [one], financial services/including payments, [two], healthcare, and [three], proprietary video content (Apple TV+).
We feel very good about our buy rating, and the reason is because expectations have never been lower, … [and] as it pertains to the iPhone yesterday, were historically low. You think about all the years they’ve had that event, … and coming out of the event, we were more interested in the pricing of Apple TV+ than the new specs on the iPhone.
Next year, if they’re able to have a 5G device, that could resume unit growth for smartphones—help is on the way. And investors are surprisingly warmly embracing the narrative at Apple, which is the company is engaged in a multi-year process to minimize its dependence on smartphone sales, which were 6% of revenue in the last fiscal year.
The good news when it comes to the saturation of the smartphone market is it’s pushing Apple to pursue new opportunities, and … Apple is taking on the challenge.
We also think that sales for the [iPhone] 11 may exceed expectations, and we jokingly say that Apple’s tagline should be, ‘buy the [iPhone] 11 before the government raises the price of the 12’ because of tariffs.
The China risk is still the most significant risk for the company when you think about both their supply chain and the fact that, give or take, 20% of their sales are to Chinese consumers. The company … in our opinion, [has] the ability to lobby both the U.S. and the Chinese government because of their influence in both countries. Phrase it however you want, but the U.S. gave them a gift which was the ability to sell the iPhone 11 prior to the implementation of the tariffs. I think that, at the maximum, the next [generation] 5G device will have some element of tariff priced into it, and at a minimum, the same rules are applied to Apple as for everyone else, and they may find the ability to completely wiggle out of these tariffs.
[In terms of Apple TV+], when was the last time you ever said, ‘Apple was the least expensive option’ in anything? Never. That’s a statement that, up until now, we were never able to say. [Apple TV+] is the least expensive. That is, to me, why I see this as a shot across the bow at Netflix … and [is] remarkable.
We see three potential catalysts for shares over the next 12-month period: stronger-than-expected operating results from [one], a rebound in iPhone sales (forecasted at roughly 52% of 4QFY19 sales versus 60% of FY18 revenues, it remains Apple’s most significant product); [two], better-than-expected results from its newer initiatives, including the Apple Watch and Apple TV+ as well as its other service efforts; and [three], an accelerated repurchase effort and increase in dividends following the changes to U.S tax code.
Analyst Logan Purk at Edward D. Jones covers Apple and 18 other companies, and currently has a ‘hold’ rating on the company.
I think the headlines are really positive in terms of Apple TV+, particularly with the launch date, and then of course pricing. The headwind is if customers make purchases now, they get it free for a year. The financial impact is pretty limited at least for the first year. Further, while the pricing is strong, once again, the financial impact is now further limited. This becomes more of a, ‘we’re building out the ecosystem’ and less of a ‘how we can move the needle financially moving forward.’
Especially this cycle of the iPhone, the headwinds are going to be bigger than usual just because the product they have now, while the price is a little cheaper relative to past cycles of the iPhone, lacks the 5G capabilities that its competitors already have [in China]. Not to mention that those phones are very feature-rich and they’re also substantially cheaper, so I think Apple stands to lose some share over this next cycle until their 5G phone hopefully comes out next year.
In the near term, [the trade war] is a bit of a headwind. Longer term, our view is that the trade situation is ultimately resolved, so longer term we don’t see it as too big of an impact.
Looking forward over this next cycle of the iPhone, … this cycle will be muted. The refresh of the other products helped some, but the financial impact from Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ is limited, so I think going forward the business is going to be lower growth than usual until we get this 5G refresh.
I’d keep an eye on the success or lack thereof of the uptake in Apple Arcade and of course Apple TV+, and I’m sure they will not be shy in sharing subscriber numbers. That’s clearly where they want investor focus to be. While it’s easy to say Apple TV+ is very affordable, customers will sign up—at the same time, it’s very affordable, customers are less likely to drop other subscription services. Because if it’s an incremental $5, I don’t need to cancel Netflix to really make this decision if I want it.
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