Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock rose slightly in the wake of its fiscal-second-quarter results announced last week. Moreover, even accounting for this morning’s near-2% drop, AAPL stock has rallied 33% so far this year.
However, the results, for reasons I will explain below, strengthen my thesis that Apple’s main moneymaker, iPhone, is weakening meaningfully and that its strategy of using the growth of its Services revenue to offset iPhone’s declining metrics isn’t going to work.
Eventually, many of the current owners of Apple stock will realize that the strategy won’t work, and they will sell their shares, potentially causing tAAPL stock to drop slightly under $100 by the end of this year.
AAPL Stock’s Services Revenue Growth Is Slowing
As Apple stock jumped amid the increase in the company’s dividend and share buybacks, and Tim Cook’s celebration of record Services revenue, the deceleration in the growth of Apple’s Services business seemed to have been totally overlooked. Nonetheless, Services revenue increased 16% year-over-year last quarter, down from the 19% YoY gain in the previous quarter.
Those who are bullish on AAPL can make some valid arguments about why the growth may have decelerated. For example, Q1 is much seasonally stronger than Q2, and growth will inevitably decelerate, due to the Law of Large Numbers.
Still, the fact that the growth of the unit that’s supposed to rescue Apple stock slowed is definitely a very bad sign for AAPL stock.
Services Revenue Growth Isn’t Enough for Apple Stock
This one is pretty simple. Apple’s Product revenue dropped by a bit less than $5 billion year-over-year, driven a great deal by the iPhone revenue decline and a bit by a YoY Mac sales slump, while Services revenues increased $1.6 billion YoY. Also not helping is the fact that the cost of Services revenue rose nearly $350 million YoY, or over 20% of the Services revenue increase.
But the main point is that, as things stand now, the increase in Services revenue isn’t coming close to make up for the decline in the company’s Product sales.
Streaming and Innovation Won’t Be the Answer
As I’ve written several times previously, streaming won’ be the answer for Apple stock. There’s tons of competition in the streaming sector, with everyone from Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) to Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) to Disney (NYSE:DIS) to Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) already in the space or preparing to get in it. And given Apple’s lack of original programming, its streaming offering probably won’t be extremely popular.
Nor is technical innovation very likely to rescue Apple stock. A couple of years ago, I used to be one of the few who realized that AAPL under Tim Cook wasn’t very innovative. Now many people are writing about that issue. So anyone who expects some sort of new invention to rescue AAPL stock is very likely to be sorely disappointed.
Valuing Apple Stock
Within six months, I think investors will finally realize that Services won’t enable AAPL’s revenue to grow going forward and won’t rescue AAPL stock. At that point, the valuation of Apple stock will drop to the level of other, older tech names that have some good products but aren’t growing.
Let’s say that in six months, analysts’ consensus 2020 EPS estimate for AAPL is 20% below its current $12.76, as analysts realize that Apple’s streaming offering isn’t going to be very profitable. That would drop the consensus estimate to $10.21. If we put a 9.5 multiple on Apple stock, which is halfway between the multiples of HP stock and IBM, we get a six-month price target for AAPL stock of $97.
I think it could definitely happen.
As of this writing, the author did not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.