Apple (AAPL- Free Apple Stock Report) closed fiscal 2017 (ended September 30th) on a better-than-expected note, which has propelled this Dow component to a fresh 52-week high above the $170 mark, and put the tech giant on course to be the first public company with a market capitalization of a trillion dollars. The blue-chip issue, notably, has already rallied almost 50% in value thus far in 2017.
For the September period, share net came in at $2.07, well ahead of our $1.92 estimate and Wall Street's consensus view of $1.87, as the company sold more iPhones (46.7 million units) than had been envisioned. The high-margined Services business, including AppleCare, Apple Pay, the App Store, and a stockpile of digital content, also continued to thrive, with revenues at this segment reaching an all-time high (of about $8.5 billion). And China, an increasingly important market for the company, returned to a growth mode after what had been a challenging stretch. Indeed, sales in that key nation climbed 12% year over year in the fiscal fourth quarter, to $9.8 billion, buoyed by a nice showing from the iPad tablet franchise.
Looking ahead to fiscal 2018, things only seem likely to get better for Apple. The company has forecast December-period revenue of between $84 billion and $87 billion, which is roughly in line with our bullish estimate, but higher than many analyst calls. Smartphones will continue to lead the charge, we think, with the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus (they arrived in late September) proving to be surprisingly big hits. Brisk orders for the premium-tier model iPhone X, which has just hit store shelves, also augur well for results in the coming quarters. And Apple stands to be a major beneficiary of Congressional tax legislation that is calling for a one-time discounted tax rate of 12% on repatriated foreign profits. If enacted, the tax law would enable the company to put more of its cash hoard (of nearly $270 billion) to work for shareholders, perhaps by using the newly available funds for accretive acquisitions, stock buybacks, and/or dividend hikes.
All in all, it was a fine quarterly performance from Apple, which now appears to be back on a solid growth footing. Given the momentum, we are increasing our fiscal 2018 share-net estimate from $10.55 to $11.00. This would equate to an excellent 20% year-on-year advance. The stock, meanwhile, still looks to be a decent choice for conservative, buy-and-hold investors. Though already trading within our current 3- to 5-year Target Price Range, we will likely be raising our long-range projections in the weeks ahead, as the fundamental picture here continues to brighten. Plus, this quality issue ought to hold up relatively well in the event that the broader U.S. stock market begins to falter.
About the Company:Apple Inc. is one of the world’s largest makers of PCs and peripheral and consumer products, such as the iPod digital music player, the iPad tablet, the iPhone smartphone, and the Apple Watch, for sale primarily to the business, creative, education, government, and consumer markets. It also sells operating systems, utilities, languages, developer tools, and database software.