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Apple Has 20% Upside

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL - Get Report) announced on Monday that iPhone 5 pre-order sales shattered previous records and AT&T (T - Get Report) also reported stellar iPhone numbers. With all of this, and the stock surpassing $700, a number of analysts believe there's at least 20% upside ahead.

Merrill Lynch analyst Scott Craig raised his price target from $770 to $850, citing more than 20% upside from current levels, with a faster-than-expected iPhone 5 rollout prompting him to raise his earnings estimates. "Our new EPS estimates are meaningfully above Street, with potentially another ~5% upside to our above consensus $56 EPS estimate for F2013 if Apple's gross margin were to progress similar to the iPhone 4S cycle," Craig wrote in his research note. He rates Apple shares "buy."

Apple has said that the iPhone 5 will be available in 100 countries, including China, by the end of the year. This is a testament to the job CEO Tim Cook's doing. The Apple chief may not be the product visionary his predecessor Steve Jobs was, but he's undoubtedly an operations genius.

Within its first 92 days, the iPhone 4S was available in 90 countries, according to Craig. That's a sharp increase from the iPhone 3G, which was in just 70 countries within 174 days of becoming available.

China also represents a major opportunity for Apple, as Cook has previously indicated. Apple already has a partnership with China Telecom (CHA - Get Report), and there has been increased speculation that the iPhone 5 will come to China Mobile (CHL), once the world's largest carrier gets its 4G network up and running.

Initial reaction from some tech journalists, Wall Street analysts and the mainstream media was tepid towards the iPhone 5, yet Cook and his team have created another product that the masses are clamoring for.

On the back of exceptional initial iPhone 5 demand, Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu also raised his price target, moving his target from $820 to $840. "We continue to believe many underestimate iPhone 5 in that it is a significant update and will drive a powerful product cycle," Wu wrote in his note. "We are raising our estimates and PT again but believe Dec. quarter upside could be limited by supply constraints on new incell touchscreens." The analyst rates Apple shares "buy."

Apple shares have gained 72.79% year-to-date, yet if the iPhone 5 launch and subsequent new products (iPad Mini?) continue to sell like gangbusters, there may be additional upside in Apple.

Interested in more on Apple? See TheStreet Ratings' report card for this stock.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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