Simply put: QTR thinks Mac is going to be the secret weapon this year. In the midst of talks about Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) China Mobile deal and its phone and tablet sales, Mac is an unsuspecting and unlikely hero for the coming year. Additionally, I'm forecasting an above average earnings call this Monday across the board for Apple.
I couldn't pen an article about why I think Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is eventually going to turn around in conjunction with the PC market turning around without stoking a fire inside of me to get my thoughts about Mac down on paper for the coming year.
In the midst of the PC market's downturn over the past year, Mac has continued to gain market share and post respectable numbers for Apple. With the PC market hitting a bottom, Mac sales are likely to advance even further.
(click to enlarge - source article @ appleinsider.com)
Estimates on Mac sales to end 2013 have been all over the map. Computer World reports:
Apple sold 2.2 million Macs in the U.S. in 2013's final quarter, a 29% increase over the year before. Or it sold just 1.6 million, representing a 6% decline.
In a repeat of past discrepancies between market research leaders IDC and Gartner, the two firms on Thursday released very different estimates of Apple's performance in the U.S. for the fourth quarter, making it hard to know which, if either, to believe.
Gartner forecast U.S. Mac sales at 2.2 million for the quarter, an increase of 28.5% over the disastrous fourth quarter of 2012, when Apple inexplicably announced new iMac desktop computers but had virtually none to sell. Apple later blamed the quarter's dismal Mac sales -- down 22% from 2011 -- on the iMac fiasco.
In fact, many analysts and investors alike are pointing to signs like Intel's recent earnings as a signal that the PC market has bottomed. Intel noted in their recent call that even though they continue to focus on tablets and mobile, that they feel PC sales have stabilized to start 2014.
While it's true that Lenovo is the only manufacturer that saw YOY gains in PC shipments, Apple's growth loss is significantly less than HP and some other PC makers. Importantly noted on this chart, also, is the fact that Apple didn't lose any market share YOY. This means that their lower shipments were basically a direct product of a sector-wide sales pullback. For all intents and purposes, Mac is weathering the storm.
(click to enlarge - source IDC)
Thusly, when the PC market rebounds, Apple's Mac sales should do the same - and the company should continue to grow its market share.
Apple is set to report earnings after market close on Monday, January 27, and analysts are expecting the company to report $14.32/share in earnings on revenues of $57.9 billion. The company had guided for between $55 and $58 billion.
You've got to remember, too, that a beat for Apple now is sufficiently better than a beat for Apple in the 2010-2012 era, where it was notorious for sandbagging its guidance. Apple's CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, has done well to rope in analyst expectations over the past year and remind the analysts that the company's guidance should be the control for predictions. Bullish estimates are supposed to be fueled by tablet sales and Apple's recent foray into China.
Apple has traded well of late, up 3.8% in the last three months, but up 24.1% over the last year. Recently, Carl Icahn disclosed another monster stake in the company, right before offering the sage like advice that the company should "hurry up and release televisions, smartwatches, bigger phones, and mobile payment platforms." Thanks, Carl - not quite sure how the company got to where it is today without you.
Regardless, my prediction for earnings is a beat on revenue and margins, with EPS in line. I expect margins to beat on the margin strength of the iPad Air and a revenue beat based on strong holiday sales.
Either way, I reaffirm my bullish sentiment on the company for both the long and short term. Apple remains a great investment vehicle. It's valued fairly, pays a nice dividend, and continues its moderately paced growth. I look forward to gaining some insight as to how the company is going to approach 2014 from its earnings call on Monday.
Best of luck to all investors.
Disclosure: I am long INTC. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.