With just 12 days to go before Palm’s (PALM) “Pre” smartphone hits shelves at Sprint (S) in the U.S., RBC Capital analyst Mike Abramsky Tuesday morning raised his price target on the stock from $12 to $14, writing that the Pre offers the benefits of both Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and Research in Motion’s (RIMM) Blackberry. Abramsky notes the device has a “clever touchscreen [user interface], mobile web, and physical keyboard.”
There are no changes to estimates in the note; Abramsky simply thinks a positive reception of the Pre will trounce the skeptics. His earnings expectations are higher than the Street, with a forecast for a loss of $1.91 per share in the fiscal year ending this month, versus the consensus for a loss of $2.37 per share. For next year, the numbers get trickier because analysts are trying to estimate sales of the Pre before its even shipped.
Suffice it to say, if the Pre can sell 10 million units from its introduction next month through calendar year’s end 2010, the company could have $1.4 billion in sales on a non-GAAP basis in the May, 2010 fiscal year, meaning, including deferred revenue from the Pre. Non-GAAP profit would total a loss of 13 cents. The Street, by contrast, is looking for a loss of 78 cents on sales of $1.37 billion.
(Notice the 10 million unit goal is the same one CEO Steve Jobs set for Apple for the first full year of iPhone sales when the iPhone was introduced in 2007. Apple, of course, surpassed that target with the iPhone. I guess 10 million has become everyone’s benchmark)
Positive drivers for Pre, in Abramsky’s opinion, include the possibility that any supply shortage of the Pre would increase the desirability of the Pre, much the way shortages of Nintendo’s (NTDOY.PK) Wii did for that device. He says the $199 price for the phone “hits a sweetspot” for consumers, as does the “all you can eat” data plan Sprint will offer at $69. He expects other phone companies aside from Sprint to take up the device, including the U.K.’s Vodafone (VOD), Spain’s Telefonica (TEF), or Telefonica’s operation in the U.K., O2.
UK paper The Guardian reported over the weekend that sources say O2 has, in fact, won the deal to carry the Pre.
Abramsky is expecting Palm’s WebOS operating system will show up on lots of other models with prices that will fit different budgets. For example, he expects AT&T (T) will pick up something called the “Pixing,” also referred to as “Eos,” which would be a stripped-down version of the Pre for tigher budgets.
The bottom line, in Abramsky’s view, is that there’s enough room for several smartphone vendors: ” We think the fast-growing underpenetrated Global Smartphone Market (RBC est 130 million data-centric Smartphone units CY08 growing to 400M CY12), can support several entrants like Palm, Apple, RIM and Google.”
Eric will be shmoozing with the digerati at the All Things Digital conference in California, where Palm Executive Chairman Jon Rubinstein is expected to make an appearance, and he may glean more about the company’s plans there, so stay tuned.
Palm shares Tuesday are up $1.04, or 10.3%, at $11.15.