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Apple loses spot on a top-picks list

Goldman says company is in need of new hits

Apple’s stock rose 88 cents to close at $429.79 Tuesday, up 0.21 percent, while the Nasdaq was up 0.5 percent.Alexander F. Yuan/Associated Press

NEW YORK — Goldman Sachs Group dropped Apple Inc. off its list of most highly recommended stocks Tuesday as it joined other analysts in reducing expectations for a company that has not had a revolutionary new product since the iPad in 2010.

Goldman analyst Bill Shope said the iPhone 5, introduced in the fall, has not sold as well as he expected. He said the company needs some real hits among the products it rolls out during the second half of the year in order to boost the stock price.

Apple’s stock rose 88 cents to close at $429.79 Tuesday, up 0.21 percent, while the Nasdaq was up 0.5 percent. Apple’s stock price is near its one-year low of $419, hit a month ago. It’s well off its record high of $705.07, reached in September on the day the iPhone 5 went on sale.


Besides taking the company off Goldman’s Americas Conviction List, which it had been on since December 2010, Shope lowered Apple’s price target on the shares to $575, from $660. But he kept a ‘‘buy’’ rating for the company.

After a heady decade, Apple’s sales growth is slowing. In recent years, Apple has modified existing products rather than come out with groundbreaking new ones. Even so, the company warned this fall that a wave of improvements means higher production costs, at least initially. For the quarter that just ended, analysts polled by FactSet expect an 18 percent decrease in earnings, compared with a year earlier. It would be the first time in many years that Apple sees an earnings decline of that magnitude.

Compared with competitors such as Samsung Electronics Co., Apple has appeared inflexible, refusing to vary the size and cost of the iPhone.

Shope, though, joins other analysts in saying he expects a cheaper iPhone to debut around the third quarter, which could help drive sales growth in developing countries. The company may also get a boost if it offers an iPhone with a larger screen, but Shope said there’s little evidence Apple is looking to release one this year.


Practically all competing high-end phones have bigger screens than the iPhone’s, including Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S 4, which has a screen that is 56 percent larger than the iPhone 5’s.

Shope also said he’s expecting Apple to improve the full-size iPad. That could slow some of the loss of sales to the cheaper iPad Mini, released in the fall. The analyst said the smaller tablet has been more successful than he expected, and this may permanently shift the focus of Apple’s iPad line toward the smaller size.

Like others, Shope thinks Apple will soon announce a way to use its massive cash pile to benefit shareholders. If it announces a substantial dividend increase or a stock buyback, it could provide ‘‘a healthy floor’’ for the stock price, he said. Still, the analyst said he believes the stock’s outperformance over the next 12 months ‘‘will be more closely tied to the timing and success of Apple’s next batch of product refreshes.’’