Tuesday, February 12, 2013

AAPL: Morgan Stanley Defends ‘Option’ Value, iWatch, iTV Prospects

Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook‘s appearance at the Goldman Sachs technology conference in San Francisco this morning has unleashed several Street points of view. I mentioned Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster appearing on CNBC immediately after Cook’s presentation to talk about prospects for a cheaper iPhone

There was also a note a short while ago from Morgan Stanley’s Katy Huberty, who has an Overweight rating on the shares, and a $630 price target, calling Apple stock a “free option on innovation.”

AAPL shares price in negative earnings growth. We view the stock as a free option on Apple innovation with product refreshes (iPhone / iPad), new distribution (NTT Docomo, China Mobile), and expansion into new segments (iTV or iWatch) as catalysts that could change market perception and valuation.

Huberty thinks the stock currently reflects a long-term earnings per share decline of 4% despite 14% revenue growth. “In other words, investors expect significant share losses and/or margin contraction.”

Huberty thinks the rumored “smart watch,” if true, could be a $10 billion to $15 billion revenue opportunity, perhaps adding $2.50 to $4 to EPS annually. “This assumes a 20% attach rate to the current 500 million active iTunes accounts.”

Huberty still is modeling the potential for $17 billion in revenue from an Apple television set, with perhaps $4.50 per share in earnings contribution. “This assumes 10% penetration of active iTunes accounts and $1,300 average selling price.”

Adds Huberty,

Importantly, iTV and iWatch present new services opportunities that can differentiate Apple’s broader product portfolio, improving investor sentiment around Apple�s ability to maintain market share. Possibilities include, mobile payments service linked to iTunes / iWatch and video search and multi-screen viewing with iTV.

Apple shares are down $9.80, or 2%, at $470.13.

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