Apple Shares Slip, to Stay Muted until iPhone 7 Rings in Growth

(Reuters) —

Apple Inc shares fell as much as 6 percent on Wednesday after the company reported its slowest-ever rise in iPhone shipments, with an uptick likely only after the expected launch of iPhone 7 in September.

The March quarter is likely to be the weakest this year in terms of iPhone sales. Apple on Tuesday forecast its first quarterly revenue drop in 13 years.

Shares fell to $94.04, knocking off more than $20 billion from Apple’s market value of about $554 billion.

But analysts said the depressed stock price could create a buying opportunity for long-term value seekers.

“We are looking for March to mark the trough in year-on-year iPhone unit growth, which should provide an attractive entry point into the stock,” Goldman Sachs analysts wrote in a note.

Tepid demand for the latest iPhones – that succeeded blockbuster sales of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus – led Apple to sell 74.8 million iPhones in the first quarter. It expects to sell 50-52 million units in the March quarter.

Apple usually launches new iPhones in September and sells most devices in the December quarter. Unit sales typically drop over the next few quarters, picking up after the next iPhone launch.

At least 13 analysts cut their price targets on the stock. FBN was the most bearish, cutting its target by $30 to $120.

The median price target is $142.29, according to Reuters data. At this price, analysts expect Apple to gain $200 billion in value over the next 12 months.

“Cook & Co. have a few tough quarters ahead until we get to the buildup around iPhone 7 later this year, which is what bulls are focused on to turn this ship back into growth waters,” FBR & Co. analyst Daniel Ives said.

Apple said the average selling price for iPhones rose to a record $691 in the quarter that included the year-end shopping season.

This indicated that despite a saturated smartphone market, consumers were keen to buy the newer and more expensive iPhone versions – good news for the iPhone 7 cycle, Pacific Crest Securities analysts said.

The iPhone 7 is expected to sport a new look with features such as waterproofing, wireless headphones and force touch as home button.

Up to Tuesday’s close, Apple’s stock had lost a quarter of its value since April 28, when it hit a record high of $134.54. In contrast, shares of Alphabet Inc rose 10 percent.

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