GT Advanced Earnings Call Signals Sapphire Ahead for Apple

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- GT Advanced (GTAT) has been one of the most hyped tech stocks in 2014. It's up 76% for the year. Thursday it closed at $15.36, up 2.37% on a day when the rest of the market sagged and over 76% for the year to date.

Although it signed an agreement with Apple (AAPL) last year to build a sapphire-producing plant within a property already owned by Apple, most analysts didn't really pay much attention to the company, which had about a $1 billion market capitalization coming into 2014.

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The stock traded in the $8 range at the beginning of this year. It's reached as high as $20 a few weeks ago, but then slipped into the $13 range earlier this month. After this week's earnings call, though, the stock is back above $15.

Why the nervousness among investors?

Well, until we know there's really sapphire in the new iPhone 6 phones coming this Fall, it's hard for GT Advanced investors to give the company full credit.

Instead, the sell side has come out with many skeptical pieces in the weeks leading up to this week's earnings, questioning whether sapphire was going to be included in the new iPhone 6 phones. Some believe there have been problems at Apple's Mesa, Ariz., plant in producing the sapphire boules required to make the sapphire covers in large volumes. Others say that sapphire won't be included at all in the iPhone 6, only the iWatch expected later in the year.

When Corning (GLW) reported earnings last week, GT shares sank right away because Corning said that its Gorilla Glass -- Apple's current alternative to sapphire -- would grow sales by 20% next year. Even though Corning didn't say anything specific about Apple or sapphire, investors reacted to the news by selling GT because they concluded that any growth for gorilla glass must be bad for sapphire.

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Other analysts have worried that GT won't be able to produce enough sapphire in time for Apple to sell the iPhone 6 -- when it was released last year. So they expect two different iPhone release dates: one in September for a smaller iPhone 6 and one later in the Fall for the larger screen iPhone 6. It's expected among these analysts that GT will be able to produce enough sapphire for the later larger screened iPhone, along with the iWatch.

There are other analysts who simply believe there are no sapphire production issues and GT will be fine to meet all of Apple's sapphire needs.

What we learned during the GT earnings call this week is, while no specifics about Apple, their guidance that their 2014 revenues would come in at the low end of their prior guidance but their earnings would be at the high end. They also outlined that they'd receive their final payment for setting up the sapphire plant from Apple by the end of October for $139 million.

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