Analysts offer hot takes on Q4 2023 Apple results

Apple CEO Tim Cook



Analysts have weighed in on Apple’s Q4 2023 financial results, with most taking the view that the quarter is decent-performing, but with caution about a shorter Q1 2024.

On Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri told investors and analysts in a conference call that Apple hauled in $89.5 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2023. This was a slight drop year-on-year from $90.1 in Q4 2022.

During the results, it was revealed that iPhone revenue rose slightly YoY to $43.8 billion, iPad dropped from $7.17 billion one year ago to $6.43 billion, and Mac was down to $7.61 from $11.5 billion. Services continued its growth to $22.31 billion, and Wearables, Home, and Accessories was down marginally at $9.32 billion.

Apple also expects that Q1 will grow its Mac sales, though wearables could decelerate in the quarter.

After Apple issued its figures, analysts were quick to respond to the numbers, offering their hot takes on the financial status of the iPhone maker.

Deepwater

Writing for Deepwater Asset Management, Gene Munster and Brian Baker believe Apple’s outlook towards the December quarter was “better than it first appeared.” If the quarter was 14 weeks long instead of the 13 it will be, it is thought that Apple would see 7% year-on-year growth for revenue instead of the forecast 1% gain.

As the calendar will normalize in March, Deepwater forecasts that there will be continued growth at around 5%.

“The product and services flywheel is intact,” the note from Thursday states, thanks to a growth of the active device install base, which is thought to drive “a new chapter of how investors view Apple,” the note continues. Investors may view Apple as a “can’t live without” consumer staples company for the next five years.

“The Apple flywheel is alive and well, following a 20-year success story in which consumers buy one Apple product, fall in love, buy another product, add a service, upgrade, and repeat.”

China’s slight revenue dip if 2% YoY “were in line with the China variability we have seen over the past year,” the note adds, before forecasting that the 40% to 45% of Apple’s overall revenue is manufactured in China. It’s expected to decline to 25% to 30% in five years as India takes a bigger role in Apple’s manufacturing diversification.

The note also touches on Cook’s AI comments, proposing that Apple is going to do something directly in generative AI, and most likely being “enhanced Siri” with responses to text and emails. Long term, Apple is “in the best position of any Big Tech company to win in personalized AI,” due to Apple’s focus on privacy and security.

Piper Sandler

In Thursday’s note seen by AppleInsider, Apple’s December quarter results guide is deemed “soft” relative to Street Expectations.

Both Mac and iPad had “strong comps” in the last year, and Apple “struggled to deliver growth off that base.” The analysts were also “somewhat surprised to hear about wearables not doing as well either.”

On the positive side, iPhone “appears to be doing well with good tailwinds from services,” albeit with supply constraints for the Pro models.

“All in all, we would characterize the guide as one marred by macro and timing of launches last year.”

Piper Sandler rates Apple as “Overweight” with a price target of $220.

J.P. Morgan

In JPM’s Thursday note, the quarter has Apple proving “the resilience of the portfolio across hardware products and services alike, such that it managed to eke out growth on a constant currency basis in F4Q23.”

“That said, despite a resilient performance, the effects of the challenging macro were evident and were more profound on certain segments than imagined, and is likely to raise concerns around the sustainability of the growth if the macro effects were to continue,” the analysts warn.

Hardware came in “below expectations” for the quarter, though Services surprised with its upside that also offset hardware weakness.

“Apple continued to deliver earnings upsides through levers that investors amply appreciate, including gross margin expansion from a higher mix of hardware products as well as a higher mix of Services revenue, tight discipline on operating expenses, and robust buybacks.”

The December 2024 price target has been changed, from $230 to $225, with a rating of “Overweight.”

Wedbush

In Wedbush’s Thursday evening note, Apple offered “mixed results” with its December 2024 guide being “soft relative to street expectations” and with “flattish Y/Y” expectations.

“Apple sees its year-over-year revenue growth in December similar relative to the growth in the December 2022 quarter,” the firm offers. “In addition, foreign exchange issues are expected to continue and have a negative Y/Y impact of 100 basis points.”

For the September quarter, iPhone was “slightly below expectations,” while iPad was “above consensus estimates” and wearables were “off relative to expectations.” Services was “driven by growth in each category,” resulting in figures above expectations.

Wedbush rates Apple as “Overweight” with a target of $220.

TD Cowen

The results were “in line with consensus,” TD Cowen offers, with record sell-in to emerging markets such as India. The overall results were “slightly ahead,” though investors are told to focus on the December quarter’s flat revenue guidance instead.

Lower iPhone unit sales are being offset by “EM demand and higher ASP mix,” with broad Services momentum “a positive amid iPad & Mac headwinds.” The Services boost is seemingly “tied to hardware sales and subscriptions interest,” with a note that Apple’s recent subscription price increases possibly helping the revenue level.

“A refreshed product portfolio and strong EM demand are helping to partly offset macro and FX headwinds, and leading to approx flat CY23 revenues,” the note adds. Apple is also considered” a defensive name given resilient FCF and shareholder returns while offering exposure to spatial computing (XR headset) and AI (Apple Silicon) optionality”

TD Cowen rates Apple as “Outperform” with a price target of $220.

Rosenblatt

The Q4 results were “muted” to Rosenblatt in its Friday note. While Apple worked hard to “move its massive battleship,” it only advanced a “little” to the analysts. “We believe this muted pace persists for a while.”

iPhone sales were “better than our projection for flat,” though Mac and iPad proved to be “worse than estimates.

China was a “source of concern into the report,” but Apple’s data “argued that this region is OK,” despite the 2.5% YoY dip. Apple also “went out of its way” to tout growth in emerging markets like India and Vietnam at the same time.

“We admire Apple’s position as the maker of the world’s most important device, the iPhone,” Rosenblatt muses, “But, without disruptive new products, sales seem to be stuck in a muted place.” The Apple Vision Pro “feels a like a slow build, initially.”

Rosenblatt feels that with valuations near past highs, it has “no need” to rate Apple as “Overweight,” so instead gives it a “Neutral” rating and a $189 price target.

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