Apple Deal Bites Into AT&T

An analyst cites a rare revenue-sharing deal on the iPhone.
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The coming release of

Apple's

(AAPL) - Get Report

iPhone will give the tech titan more than a toe in the mobile phone market, according to one observer.

The hotly anticipated iPod-inspired cell phone also will give Apple a nice handle on a partner's pocketbook, a Wall Street

analyst said Tuesday.

The iPhone, due out from Apple in June, commands enough potential sales leverage that

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

is willing to share some of the proceeds, says American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu, in a note Tuesday.

According to the two-pronged revenue sharing arrangement, AT&T will pay Apple a commission for each new customer and a cut of the customer's monthly payment, writes Wu.

Not since

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

successfully sued phone makers to honor its patents and enter royalty agreements has a tech equipment shop of Apple's size managed to wring recurring fees out of the ever expanding wireless industry.

Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

and

Vodafone

(VOD) - Get Report

, was offered an exclusive deal for the iPhone but

said no to Apple's revenue sharing proposal in January.

But AT&T may believe the half-inch thick iPhone -- with its large touch screen, music player, 2-megapixel camera and $500 price tag -- might be the big hit with gadget lovers. And that's a lucrative opportunity, given that Apple says 100 million iPods have been sold.

Depending on the iPhone features, Wu estimates that Apple could collect "low double-digits" in monthly fees through the arrangement.

And since there is little additional cost to Apple, Wu figures the monthly revenue will be high margin, "in the 80% range."

"We believe this recurring revenue stream is high quality and adds an additional degree of stability and predictability to Apple's financial results," writes Wu, who increased his share price target to $145 from $118 based on the juiciness of this deal.

Apple shares fell 93 cents to $90.50 Tuesday.