The fiscal third quarter is usually the weakest for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). The main reason is that customers tend to hold off on purchases ahead of new product launches, especially for the iPhone.
But, things have not gone according to plan this year — that is, the company pulled off a standout performance in Q3, with beats on revenue, profit and iPhone sales. Consider that the 7.2% increase on the top-line was the highest rate in nearly two years.
Really, the only glaring issue for the earnings report was Greater China. During the quarter, there was a 10% year-over-year drop in revenue to $8 billion. Note that AAPL continues to feel the competitive pressures from operators like Huawei, Xiaomi, BBK Electronics, Oppo and Vivo.
Regardless, there still appears to be a spark in the momentum of the overall business, and this is likely to last through next year. In other words, AAPL stock still looks attractive. So, here are some of the takeaways from the company’s earnings report:
Takeaway #1: Status of the iPhone 8
When it comes to AAPL, it’s all about the iPhone. But, this year, there have been fears that the new version could be delayed, primarily because of the complex nature of the device and difficulties procuring supplies of certain elements.
But, the Q3 report from AAPL provides some much-needed comfort. Keep in mind that management provided guidance of $49 billion-$52 billion in revenue, compared to the consensus of $49.2 billion. At the high end of the range, the growth rate would be an impressive 11%. All in all, this is a good indication that AAPL is confident that there should be a timely rollout of the iPhone 8.
Granted, it’s not clear what the device will include. But, given that this will be the 10-year anniversary, it’s a good bet that it will be notable. Rumors of features include Augmented Reality (AR), wireless charging, a 3D camera, facial recognition and edgeless displays. It also looks like the company will release updates for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.
Takeaway #2: Diversification
Over the past few years, AAPL has been working hard to lessen its dependence on the iPhone, and the third quarter provides evidence that this is starting to show results.
For example, even though global PC sales continue to lag, AAPL has nonetheless been able to find growth with its Mac line of computers and laptops. During the quarter, this segment saw revenue increase 6.7%.
There was also a nice lift in the iPad category, with shipments up 15% to 11.42 million. AAPL is showing quite a bit of traction with businesses and schools.
Although, the big highlight is the services business, which jumped by 22% to $7.3 billion. This is the catchall for things like app downloads, Apple Pay and Apple Music. For Wall Street, the services category is critical since the revenue is generally recurring, which offsets the cyclical nature of the iPhone business.
Takeaway #3: Valuation
On the news of the earnings report, Apple stock is up nearly 6% to $158. For the year, the return is 36%, with the market cap at a staggering $824 billion.
In light of this, is there room for more gains? Or, could much of the good news already be baked in?
For the most part, the valuation on AAPL stock still remains reasonable, with the forward price-to-earnings ratio at about 15x. By comparison, other mega tech operators such as Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL, NASDAQ:GOOG), Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) sport multiples of 20x or higher.
So, if the growth continues for AAPL — which appears to be a good bet — than there is certainly more room on the upside for the shares.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook and operates PathwayTax.com, which provides year-round tax services. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.