Apple On the Chopping Block

Goldman Sachs was the latest firm to chop its price target on Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) following the iPhone maker’s earnings announcement that left investors disappointed. The firm cut its target to $660 per share from $760 on Friday, though kept the stock on its Conviction Buy List.

Apple’s shares sank more than 12 percent to the $450 level on Thursday for their single worst day in four years as investors reacted to earnings. A day earlier, the company said holiday-quarter revenue increased 18 percent to $54.51 billion and net income came in $13.07 billion, up from $13.06 billion a year earlier. It was the first time in several years that Apple did not post a double-digit earnings increase. The company also announced that it would move to a new guidance trend that was not as conservative as it was known for.

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For its fiscal second quarter, for instance, it forecast revenue in a range of $41 to $43 billion and gross margins of between 37.5 percent and 38.5 percent.

“Apple’s guidance was essentially what we expected from the typically conservative management team,” Goldman’s Bill Shope wrote in a note to investors, according to MarketWatch. “The problem, and the key disappointment in the call, was that management made it pretty clear that it was moving towards providing more realistic guidance.”

Shope added that the iPhone product cycle had not been able to deliver the upside the company’s investors were accustomed to and that post-holiday demand for the product had also disappointed. The firm cut its fiscal year 2013-2015 revenue estimates for Apple by 2 percent to 6 percent and earnings per share estimates by 6 percent to 14 percent. According to Shope, among the risks to Apple are delayed product cycles, supply chain problems, product price erosion, and a slower pace of product innovation.

However, the analyst added that the Apple story was “not broken” and that he was keeping a Buy rating on the stock due to “optimism that new products in the coming months will invigorate new user growth.”

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