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NEW YORK (
Apple's(AAPL - Get Report)fourth-quarter results were mixed, as cost pressures from a slew of new products impacted earnings. Investors could see as much as 20% upside next year, though, as costs come down, and Apple's margins ramp up.
Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer noted that fiscal first-quarter margins, Apple's most important given that they coincide with the holiday season, will be around 36%, 400 basis points lower than the company's historical average.
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For the three months ended Sept. 30, Apple reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of $8.2 billion, or $8.67 per share, on revenue of $36 billion, up from a year-ago equivalent profit of $6.6 billion, or $7.05 a share, on revenue of $28.3 billion. The average estimate of analysts polled by
Thomson Reuters was for earnings of $8.75 a share on revenue of $35.8 billion in the fourth quarter.
Apple launched several new products in the past six weeks, including the iPhone 5, iPad mini, iPod Touch, fourth-generation iPad, iMac, 13-inch MacBook Pro, and Mac Mini. "We believe over 80% of revenue in the December quarter will come from products we've introduced in just the last 6 weeks," Oppenheimer noted.
With such a massive product refresh in such a short period of time, and the iPad mini having much lower margins than Apple is used to, overall margins will come down. Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore believes shares should be bought on a pullback. "We trim est's on margins associated with new product ramps (GMs guide to 36%) but with the biggest product refresh in history into the Dec Q, we recommend investors Buy AAPL on any pullback," Whitmore wrote in his note. He rates Apple "buy" with a $800 price target.
Apple essentially refreshed its entire product lineup in the past two months, and there are costs associated with that. CEO Tim Cook made his bones as an operations genius, managing the supply chain, help Apple squeeze every last dollar of profit.
UBS analyst Steven Milunovich believes there's room for upside throughout 2013, as costs come down, and Apple is able to manage the supply chain better. He rates Apple "buy" with a $780 price target.
Apple has big expectations for its product refreshes, especially the iPad mini, as CEO Cook noted on Thursday night's conference call. "One of the things we try to do is create a product people will love for months and years after purchasing it," he said. "That's what the iPad mini has been designed to be."