Much has been made about Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) so called "earnings miss" in recent days. And while it's true that for the first time in recent memory Apple reported revenue and earnings below what Wall Street was expecting, Apple's performance in the fourth quarter was still extremely strong. Rather than panicking and selling, Tier 1 investors are calmly using the decline in Apple's share price to buy the stock at a discount to its true value.
So why were Apple's earnings weaker than Wall Street had hoped for?
Well, it wasn't because customers were holding off buying a tablet computer as they waited for Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) new Kindle Fire – Apple sold 11 million iPads in the fourth quarter, which represents 166% unit growth year-over-year.
And it wasn't because people were buying Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) or Hewlett-Packard (Nasdaq: HPQ ) PCs rather than Macs – Apple sold nearly five million Macs, up 26%.
The big difference between Wall Street analysts' expectations and Apple's actual results was related to iPhone sales. Apple sold 17 million iPhones while the consensus estimate was for 20 million. But again, I don't believe the shortfall was because formerly loyal Apple fans were converting to Google's Android-based phones or waiting with bated breath for Nokia's (NYSE: NOK ) new Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Windows-powered phones.
Apple explained in its conference call that fourth-quarter iPhone sales were affected by rumors surrounding the release of the new iPhone 4S. So what seems to have happened is that people held off buying an iPhone until the new model was released. And buy they have -- Apple recently announced that it sold 4 million new iPhones 4Ses in just three days.
Now as Apple satisfies that pent-up demand, this will be reflected in Apple's future sales and earnings numbers, which I believe are poised to wow investors once again. Apple seems to be thinking the same thing. The company is normally very conservative in its earnings projections -- to the point of being accused of "sandbagging it" -- but management actually issued guidance for the current quarter above what Wall Street was expecting.
Nothing in Apple's fourth-quarter results changes my belief that Apple is worth $500 per share, and possibly much more. Rather than a reason to sell, I believe the recent earnings-induced pullback in Apple's share price is an opportunity to buy Apple at an even more attractive price.
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