Apple shares fall as retail store closure prompts fears of lower sales

At current levels, the tech giant's stock has lost more than a fifth of its value f the stock has lost more than a fifth of its value from a record hit only last month

epa08298983 A sheet stating that the shop will be closed until 27 March 2020, hangs in an Apple store in Berlin, Germany, 16 March 2020. The stores of Apple will be closed until 27 March 2020 due to the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis.  EPA/CLEMENS BILAN
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Apple shares tumbled on Monday and could fall further as the company's decision to close all of its stores outside China due to the coronavirus "marks an escalation in the impact of Covid-19 on both Apple and our coverage more broadly", Credit Suisse said.

The stock declined as much as 14 per cent in their biggest one-day intraday percentage drop since May 2010, though it last traded down 8.3 per cent. At current levels, the stock has lost more than a fifth of its value from a record hit only last month.

Despite the scale of the recent sell-off, “uncertainty remains too high for us to step in at these levels,” wrote Credit Suisse analyst Matthew Cabral, who reiterated a neutral rating and $290 (Dh1,065) price target. He cited “both the possibility of closures extending beyond two weeks,” and the risk of a broader slowdown in consumer spending as factors behind his cautious near-term view.

Last month, Apple warned the outbreak would cause it to miss its sales targets this quarter.

Wall Street has been struggling to evaluate the impact the outbreak will have on Apple and its share price. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, consensus estimates for Apple’s second-quarter earnings have dropped by 13 per cent over the past month; revenue expectations are down 7.2 per cent over the same period.

At least three companies cut their price targets on Monday, with Goldman Sachs lowering its view to $265 from $300. The company wrote  the current environment "warrants increased caution regarding global demand outside of China". It also said it expects "incremental demand weakness in large global markets" through mid-May and said this could be an optimistic view if the impact on demand globally proves to be as severe as in China.

CFRA lowered its target to $320 from $350, writing that the stores "are at risk of staying closed longer than stated", though the impact should be "largely transitory".

Analyst Angelo Zino affirmed a buy rating on the shares. RBC Capital Markets lowered its target to $345 from $358, though it recommended adding to positions. The “near-term choppiness presents opportunity for increasing exposure” to the iPhone maker as the long-term bull case remains intact. A 5G iPhone remains “a sizeable opportunity for both higher unit sales and higher selling prices”.

At the weekend, Loup Ventures estimated the move to close stores could reduce revenue by as much as 2 per cent in the current quarter. Last week, Cowen said the stock could face additional downside risk of 15 per cent to 20 per cent, based on its valuation and a worst-case scenario for revenue.

But Wells Fargo upgraded its view on the stock, citing a “compelling risk/reward for long-term patient investors.”

Analysts have also said that the spread of Covid-19 could also lead to a delay in Apple's product launches.

The company's new 5G-enabled iPhones, which are scheduled for a September launch, could face a delay due to supply chain disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, Bank of America analysts said.

Apple could also delay the roll-out of its lower-cost iPhone SE2 that was expected to go on sale as early as this month as industrial activity halted in China - a major production base for Apple.

Apple's share ​was trading about 5 per cent up on Tuesday at 8.35pm UAE time.