Is the iPhone Apple’s Biggest Headache?

The iPhone is Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) bestseller, having taken the company to above-par sales and earnings quarter after quarter for a long time now. But the smartphone may now be turning into the biggest headache for Apple, whose stock has taken a big tumble over the last few months on growth worries.

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The iPhone was back to haunt Apple, and its stock, on Friday, with Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha citing falling shipments of the phone as the reason for cutting the firm’s forecast for the company. Garcha said in a research note that he was lowering his 2013 fiscal-year earnings forecast on Apple to $44.92 a share from $47.90 a share, mostly due to predicted lowered iPhone shipments. The analyst estimated that Apple could ship 158 million iPhones this year, down 11 percent from his earlier forecasts.

That was due to the possibility of purchases being delayed as customers wait for the next version of the phone, as well as competition from Samsung’s (SSNLF.PK) new Galaxy S4, which is said to be launching in mid-March.

“We are factoring the likelihood of an iPhone refresh for mid-2013, which will cause a hesitancy effect on demand and cause Apple to keep the supply chain lean,” Garcha wrote, according to Barron’s. “Simultaneously we believe the Samsung Galaxy S4 will launch in mid-March and is likely to gain share in the high-end”…

In addition to the Samsung device, a total of more than 35 new smartphones may launch this year, of which 70 percent are aimed at the high-end and 60 percent have a screen size larger than iPhone 5, he said.
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Garcha, who has an Outperform rating on Apple and a $600 price target, did add that the next iPhone release would help shipments of the smartphone grow 16 percent from their 2012 levels. He did not see a cause of long-term worry for the company.

“We would view the above reduction in volume forecasts as a reset and product transition impact rather than a structural concern long term,” he concluded.

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