Lack of Hardware Updates Leading to Lighter-Than-Expected Quarterly Mac Sales
Previously-released data from NPD on U.S. Mac sales for January and February have demonstrated relatively anemic year-over-year growth, with January sales tracking only 1% above the previous January's performance and February sales coming in 4% higher. Still, analysts have suggested that ongoing growth in international markets could compensate for stagnation in the U.S. market as consumers continue to wait for product updates. Consequently, analysts have generally been holding firm on their predictions of 15-20% Mac unit growth on a worldwide year-over-year basis for the full quarter.
Some analysts had also held out hope that Apple could sneak in at least one update to its Mac lineup before the end of the quarter to provide a spark for Mac sales, but with the first group of Intel's Ivy Bridge processors not launching until the end of the month, Apple was unable to update its main Mac models within the first three months of the year.
Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty is out with a new research note today incorporating NPD's data on U.S. Mac sales for March, and as might be expected given the lack of hardware updates, Apple continues to fall short of analyst expectations, with Mac shipments down 4% year-over-year for the first calendar quarter.
Huberty continues to believe that international growth will offset at least some of the flat performance in U.S. sales for the quarter, although she appears somewhat pessimistic that it will be able to reach her 15% growth target on a global basis. Nevertheless, Huberty seems optimistic that booming iPhone and iPad sales will make up for any shortfall on the Mac side due to the balance of profits among the segments.
Although the US retail market improved in March, Apple shipment growth decelerated as the company faced much tougher Y/Y comparisons due to a notebook refresh this time last year. US retail data suggest Apple shipments fell 4% Y/Y in C1Q12 compared to our estimate of 15% global Mac unit growth. We expect faster international growth to offset some of the deceleration in the US. In fact, the divergence between international and US growth has accelerated from about four points in prior quarters to 15 points in C4Q11. More importantly, we expect demand upside from iPhone and iPad (83% of gross profit) to more than offset any Mac downside (9% of gross profit).
On a broader basis, the PC market is seeing even more substantial declines in sales, with U.S. PC sales tracking for declines of 10-15% year-over-year for the quarter. That performance is, however, better than Huberty had been modeling for, and major PC manufacturers such as HP and Dell could see some upside if their final results fall in line with data released so far.