Verizon Set For Apple Boost: Analyst

Verizon and Apple could both reap big benefits from an iPhone relationship.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) --

Verizon

(VZ) - Get Report

and

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

may still be dancing around a possible deal on the

iPhone

, but it seems inevitable that the courtship will lead to a meaningful smartphone relationship.

On an earnings conference call earlier this week, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said there was "

nothing different

" to talk about with regard to the possibility of having the iPhone next year.

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

has been Apple's exclusive U.S. iPhone partner since its launch in 2007, although that deal is set to expire in June. Cue a massive opportunity for Verizon, which could significantly

boost

its wireless revenue.

"Diverse carrier support is a key element to driving global penetration of the iPhone," wrote Brian Marshall, an analyst at Broadpoint AmTech, in a note released Wednesday. "Therefore we believe the chances are high the iPhone will find its way onto the Verizon network in the second half of 2010."

Apple already has exclusive agreements with

T-Mobile

,

Orange

and

O2

to sell the iPhone in Germany, France, and the U.K., respectively. Later this week the consumer tech giant will also start selling its smartphone in the booming Chinese market through an exclusive deal with

China Unicom

.

Even rival

Sprint

(S) - Get Report

, which has an exclusive deal to sell

Palm's

(PALM)

competing Pre, has acknowledged the iPhone's potency. CEO Dan Hesse recently described the device as the "Michael Jordan" of smartphones in an interview with Charlie Rose.

Verizon, of course, has plenty of other weapons in its arsenal, including an expanded offering from

Research In Motion

(RIMM)

and the new

Motorola

(MOT)

Droid

powered by

Google's

(GOOG) - Get Report

Android operating system. The iPhone, however, is a massive vehicle for growth, as evidenced by AT&T's recent third-quarter results.

The smartphone

helped

the telecom giant post record subscriber growth, and AT&T activated 3.2 million new iPhone customers in the quarter. Ma Bell even managed to widen its wireless operating margin to 24.6%, up from 23.8% sequentially, despite the high cost of subsidizing between $300 and $500 of each iPhone sale.

Broadpoint AmTech estimates that Verizon could sell around 14 million iPhones in calendar year 2011. Assuming average selling prices of around $500, this would equate to more than $7 billion of pro forma revenue, according to Marshall.

The telecom giant, however, is unlikely to dangle the same financial carrot as AT&T. "We believe AT&T's 'sweetheart' carrier subsidy for the iPhone would be unattainable at Verizon," wrote Marshall. "Thus, we assume the general $300 carrier subsidy."

Even with a lower Verizon subsidy, Apple would still benefit from the deal. Despite the iPhone's popularity, Broadpoint AmTech estimates that Apple owns around 3% of the total handset market, so there is plenty of potential for gaining share.

Shares of Verizon rose 2.1%, to $29.81 Wednesday. Apple's stock shed 1.9%%, to reach $193.64, as the Nasdaq dipped 1.34%.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York