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Apple Issues AAPL Earnings Revision: Lowers Earnings Expectations, Due to ‘Fewer iPhone Upgrades,’ Economic Weaknesses, More

Apple Issues AAPL Earnings Revision: Lowers Earnings Expectations, Due to ‘Fewer iPhone Upgrades,’ Economic Weaknesses, More

Trading of Apple (AAPL) shares were halted in after-hours trading Wednesday evening, as the iPhone maker announced a rare earnings revision for the first fiscal quarter of 2019.

In a “Letter from Tim Cook to Apple investors” Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company was now forecasting the following:

  • Revenue of approximately $84 billion
  • Gross margin of approximately 38 percent
  • Operating expenses of approximately $8.7 billion
  • Other income/(expense) of approximately $550 million
  • Tax rate of approximately 16.5 percent before discrete items

The guidance Apple had previously offered back in November had been:

  • Revenue between $89 billion and $93 billion
  • Gross margin between 38 percent and 38.5 percent
  • Operating expenses between $8.7 billion and $8.8 billion
  • Other income/(expense) of $300 million
  • Tax rate of approximately 16.5 percent before discrete items

Cook’s letter laid out several reason for the adjustment, including such factors as the timing of the 2018 iPhone launches, foreign exchange issues, struggles getting new products to market, and economic weaknesses in China and other countries. All of the above, Cook says resulted in “fewer iPhone upgrades than we had anticipated.”

First, we knew the different timing of our iPhone launches would affect our year-over-year compares. Our top models, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, shipped in Q4’18—placing the channel fill and early sales in that quarter, whereas last year iPhone X shipped in Q1’18, placing the channel fill and early sales in the December quarter. We knew this would create a difficult compare for Q1’19, and this played out broadly in line with our expectations.

Second, we knew the strong US dollar would create foreign exchange headwinds and forecasted this would reduce our revenue growth by about 200 basis points as compared to the previous year. This also played out broadly in line with our expectations.

Third, we knew we had an unprecedented number of new products to ramp during the quarter and predicted that supply constraints would gate our sales of certain products during Q1. Again, this also played out broadly in line with our expectations. Sales of Apple Watch Series 4 and iPad Pro were constrained much or all of the quarter. AirPods and MacBook Air were also constrained.

Fourth, we expected economic weakness in some emerging markets. This turned out to have a significantly greater impact than we had projected.

In addition, these and other factors resulted in fewer iPhone upgrades than we had anticipated.

Cook also mentioned other factors that may have affected iPhone sales, including consumers adapting to fewer carrier subsidies, the strength of the U.S. dollar, and customers taking advantage of reduced pricing for iPhone battery replacements.

In addition, Cook laid much of the blame at the feet of the U.S. trade tensions with China.

We believe the economic environment in China has been further impacted by rising trade tensions with the United States. As the climate of mounting uncertainty weighed on financial markets, the effects appeared to reach consumers as well, with traffic to our retail stores and our channel partners in China declining as the quarter progressed.

Cook did point out “many positive results in the December quarter” thus far.

While it’s disappointing to revise our guidance, our performance in many areas showed remarkable strength in spite of these challenges.

Our installed base of active devices hit a new all-time high—growing by more than 100 million units in 12 months. There are more Apple devices being used than ever before, and it’s a testament to the ongoing loyalty, satisfaction and engagement of our customers.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, revenue outside of our iPhone business grew by almost 19 percent year-over-year, including all-time record revenue from Services, Wearables and Mac. Our non-iPhone businesses have less exposure to emerging markets, and the vast majority of Services revenue is related to the size of the installed base, not current period sales.

Services generated over $10.8 billion in revenue during the quarter, growing to a new quarterly record in every geographic segment, and we are on track to achieve our goal of doubling the size of this business from 2016 to 2020.

Wearables grew by almost 50 percent year-over-year, as Apple Watch and AirPods were wildly popular among holiday shoppers; launches of MacBook Air and Mac mini powered the Mac to year-over-year revenue growth and the launch of the new iPad Pro drove iPad to year-over-year double-digit revenue growth.

We also expect to set all-time revenue records in several developed countries, including the United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Korea. And, while we saw challenges in some emerging markets, others set records, including Mexico, Poland, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Finally, we also expect to report a new all-time record for Apple’s earnings per share.

Tim Cook discussed Apple’s earnings revision during an interview with CNBC:

Trading of AAPL has since resumed. The stock is down more than 7% in after-hours trading, selling for $146.36 per share at press time.

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