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Huge iPhone Fees Juice Apple

"At $145, Apple is valued at about 25 times forward EPS," says the money manager. But with these sweeter-than-expected terms, "you could easily see it as a stock worth $200."

Apple shares rose 25 cents Monday to $144 after earlier touching an all-time high above $145.

Wireless sector watchers and analysts say Apple's iPhone terms with AT&T are the sweetest in the industry. Research in Motion's (RIMM) beloved BlackBerry phone comes closest: RIM collects about $170 bounty and $7 a month per phone from the telcos.

Telcos customarily fork over as much as $100 in rebates to hook new customers with free or lower cost phones. The payoff is usually 10 times that by the end of the contract if the customer hasn't canceled.

From a financial standpoint, AT&T seems to be taking a big risk on the iPhone, shelling out a big commission and ongoing payments. But analysts see some logic to it.

If AT&T sold half of the estimated 400,000 iPhones bought on the last two days of the quarter, its total payments to Apple for the period will be about $40 million -- a reasonably insignificant number compared to AT&T's $1.7 billion in quarterly operating expenses.

Verizon Wireless -- co-owned by Verizon (VZ) and Vodafone (VOD) -- was the first company approached by Apple. But Verizon nixed the deal.

It was thought at the time that Verizon didn't like the financial terms, but sources at the company now confirm that the deal was killed even before the terms were discussed. It was Apple's unbending position on iPhone distribution and the applications that would run on the phone that brought the talks to a quick end, these people say.

AT&T reports its second quarter earnings before the opening bell Tuesday. Apple reports after the close Wednesday. Investors will be looking closely at the numbers for signs of the iPhone's effects.

To watch Scott Moritz's video take of this column, click here.

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