Morgan Stanley Lifts Bull Case Target on Apple (AAPL) to $191 on Higher Demand for 5G

November 30, 2020 6:35 AM EST
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(Updated - November 30, 2020 7:28 AM EST)

A Morgan Stanley AlphaWise survey of nearly 3,500 consumers in the US and China shows that consumer smartphone purchase intentions are the strongest in recent history due to 5G.

This signals likely the strongest year of smartphone upgrades in recent history, analysts at Morgan Stanley wrote in a research note.

"The main driver is demand for 5G, which is now the primary reason consumers are upgrading in the US and China – a comparatively bigger catalyst than any other recent technology upgrade and a more bullish signal relative to investors' more cautious stance,” it is said in a note.

Based on the 5G demand, analyst Katy Huberty reiterated an “Overweight” rating Apple (AAPL) and raised the bull-case price target to $191 (from $171). The base case PT remains at $136.00, however, an upside revision is likely in the next 3-6 months if AAPL can increase supply to meet a surge in demand.

“Our conviction in the AAPL bull case is rising with iPhone 12 Pro lead times at record levels, upward revisions to supply chain forecasts, and US carriers noting strong initial demand. Our AlphaWise consumer survey outlines a bull case that is much higher than we previously thought, with iPhone upgrades expected to outperform other vendors and our past surveys correlating to future growth.

“Survey data translates to 268M bull case iPhone shipments in FY21, above consensus of 213M and our prior bull case of 240M. Additionally, stronger than expected demand for iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max models translates to bull case iPhone ASP of $842 in FY21 (9% above our base case and consensus ASP forecasts,” it is added in the note.

The survey data shows that 65% of existing Apple users are "extremely / somewhat likely" to upgrade their smartphone in the next 12 months. Based on stronger iPhone shipments and ASPs, Huberty raised bull case EPS to $5.10 from prior $4.50.

Elsewhere, Morgan Stanley analysts believe that T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS) is likely the largest net beneficiary of smartphone upgrade activity.

Meanwhile, they see Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) as best positioned to benefit this 5G cycle from higher dollar content and consumer intentions to upgrade, with legal headwinds removed and royalty licenses signed at major smartphone OEMs.

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