RBC Raises Price Target on Apple Shortly After Dreaming About Benefits of a Merger With Disney
RBC Capital Markets raised its AAPL price target to $157 today, up from $155, as it believes iPhone sales were stable to modestly better than expected in Apple's second quarter, which ended on March 31.
The investment bank's lead Apple analyst Amit Daryanani said the company's iPhone mix continues to remain positive, with "more" Plus-sized models sold in the quarter than it previously forecasted. iPhone 7 Plus models carry a $120 premium over iPhone 7 models, contributing to a higher average selling price.
RBC now estimates Apple will report quarterly revenue of $53.5 billion, matching the high end of the company's guidance. Apple is scheduled to report its second quarter earnings results on May 2 at 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time. MacRumors.com will provide live coverage of Apple's conference call at 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time.
The bank said it remains positive about AAPL based on so-called "iPhone 8" refresh cycle tailwinds, benefits from a possible capital allocation increase, the acceleration of its growing Services category, and potential upside from U.S. Donald Trump's political agenda in relation to taxes and cash repatriation.
Apple's stock price has been rising steadily since November, as rumors suggest the company will launch its first iPhone with an OLED display and slim bezels, potentially mirroring the design of Samsung's new Galaxy S8. Many analysts have maintained a "buy" or equivalent rating on AAPL since March or earlier.
Last week, RBC Capital Markets generated headlines when it outlined the potential benefits of a completely speculative Disney acquisition.
In a lengthy research note, the bank said such a deal would create a "tech and media juggernaut like no other" and instantly expand Apple's services, content, and media portfolio. Assets such as ABC and ESPN, for example, could lay the foundation for Apple's long rumored but elusive streaming TV service.
An excerpt from Daryanani's research note obtained by MacRumors:
Together, Apple and Disney would instantly have access to global distribution via Apple's installed base and the global iTunes store, and a massive library of content and studio capacity via Disney to make future movies and shows. A digital content service could be put together in relatively short order. Apple has the advantage of integrating its price to consumers with its hardware. For example, buy a new iPhone and receive a 12-month subscription to the streaming service for free.
Daryanani said the so-called "mega deal" would diversify Apple away from hardware and help the iPhone maker fulfill its goal of doubling its Services category by 2020. He also thinks it would be an appropriate use of Apple's massive cash hoard, should the U.S. ever offer a cash repatriation holiday.
A prerequisite to Apple-Disney is a regulatory environment that would allow Apple to use its huge amount of cash assets for a domestic acquisition. If a cash repatriation tax holiday results in a 9% tax on offshore cash brought to the United States, we estimate that Apple would effectively have access to cash of $223 billion. After adjusting for operational requirements, Apple should have $200 billion cash available for discretionary uses.
Daryanani said there is a "greater than 0%" chance that Apple acquires Disney, but he admitted that the odds are low at this point.
Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's "Mad Money" show, believes the Apple-Disney speculation was more about influencing the stock market than anything else.
"The only thing that's really accomplished by this kind of speculation? The short-sellers will be afraid to bet against Disney's stock because of newfound fears of a takeover lurking. It really does put a bid underneath, simply because it was just too juicy to ignore," Cramer concluded.
AAPL closed at $141.83 on Monday. The Walt Disney Company closed at $113.78.
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