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Apple's Big Launch Is Now Just 2 Days Away

This day has been a long time coming, but at long last Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) is launching the iPhone on China Mobile's (NYSE: CHL  ) network on Friday. Ahead of the launch, CEO Tim Cook sat down with The Wall Street Journal to discuss the potential of the partnership. Naturally, he's quite optimistic about getting the iPhone on the largest carrier in the world.

Apple will expand its iPhone distribution by 3,000 points of sale. He also teased that Apple sold more iPhone units into its Greater China segment than ever before. That's certainly impressive, but investors won't have a concrete frame of reference, since Apple doesn't disclose the geographical mix of iPhone sale. Investors won't have to wait long for Apple to report last quarter's overall results, though, which are due out on Jan. 27.

In this segment of Tech Teardown, Erin Kennedy discusses Apple's big launch with Evan Niu, CFA, our tech and telecom bureau chief.

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    In a piece this morning by Paul Mozur of The Wall Street Journal, China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua noted “that since it began taking preorders for the iPhone in late December, it received several million orders, signaling strong initial demand.”

    Cook was in a CNBC interview this morning with the channel’s Eunice Yoon, ahead of the official first day of sales, this Friday, joined by chairman Xi.

    “We sold more iPhone units in greater china than ever before,” said Cook. Asked by Yoon about estimates of sales of perhaps 30 million extra iPhones this year from the deal, Cook said Apple looks at the deal “for the long term.” Xi said he was given one of the first iPhone units made by Apple for China, the gold model 5S, and he plans to switch from using another brand of smartphone.

    In the first responses from the Street, Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster writes that the remarks about several million pre-orders “is a positive read for China Mobile iPhone demand” and supports his modeling of perhaps 3 million units of iPhone from China mobile in the March quarter. He thinks Apple may forecast the quarter “~2% ahead of Street expectations” as a result.

    And Wells Fargo’s Maynard Um reiterates a view that “the deal is clearly positive for the company and would help to drive iPhone unit strength in FQ1 2014 as well as absorb seasonal slowing in FQ2 2014 at other carriers.”

    Shares of Intel (INTC) are up 20 cents, or 0.8%, at $26.72, as the stock gets yet another plaudit this morning, from BMO Capital Markets’s Ambrish Srivastava, who raised his rating to Outperform from Market Perform, and raised his price target to $31 from $21, writing that “Being big Star Wars fans, we would love to say the Empire Strikes Back…however, in this case, it is more of a case of the Empire gradually making a come back. Either way, we see meaningful upside to the stock from its current levels.”

    In other chip news, shares of Linear Technology (LLTC) are up 71 cents, or 1.6%, at $45.90, after the company yesterday afternoon reported fiscal Q2 revenue in line with expectations but beat on the bottom line by a penny. The company forecast Q3 revenue in a range of $344.6 million to $355 million, which is higher than consensus of $345.9 million going into the report.

    The company also raised its dividend a penny to 27 cents.

    Terence Whalen of Citigroup, who has a Neutral rating on the stock, writes that Linear’s report, the first of the analog chip makers to report the December quarter, “is a decent (but not perfect) leading indicator for the overall group due to lack of consumer exposure” and that it is “a positive overall read for broad based analog names.” He recommends buying shares of Analog Devices (ADI) and Microchip Technology (MCHP) based on the report.

    Shares of 3-D printing company ExOne (XONE) are down $5.59, or 9%, at $56.67, paring some losses from last night, after the company warned revenue last quarter slipped below expectations because of delays in some printer deals in various world markets.

    The stock has gotten one downgrade this morning, that I can see, from Canaccord Genuity’s Bobby Burleson, who cut his rating to Hold from Buy, and cut his price target to $55 from $75, writing that “multiple revisions to expectations have undermined our confidence in guidance.”

    Jefferies & Co.’s Peter Misek, who has a Buy rating on the stock, and a $72 price target, writes that “ExOne maintains its long-term organic annual revenue growth rate of 40% to 50% and overall, we continue to believe that ExOne is well positioned for the near-term mass manufacturing opportunity in aerospace followed by the auto mass manufacturing opportunity.”

    In other 3-D printing news, shares of 3D Systems (DDD) are down $3.57, or almost 4%, at $87.64, following an initiation this morning by boutique firm Stephens & Co. at Equal Weight, with a $95 price target.

    Twitter (TWTR) continues on the upswing, despite two lukewarm views from the Street in the last 24 hours. This morning, Nomura’s Anthony DiClemente started the stock at Neutral, with a $60 price target, preferring Google (GOOG), which he starts at Buy, with a $1,300 target.

    And yesterday, FBN Securities’s Shebly Seyrafi started the stock with a Sector Perform rating and a $65 target, extolling its unique social media characteristics, but warning about a lockup expiration in May of 464 million shares against the current 545 million shares outstanding, and 223 million-share float.

    Shares of Micron Technology (MU) are down 10 cents, or 0.4%, at $23.57, despite an encouraging article this morning by DigiTimes’s Josephine Lien and Jessie Shen stating that DRAM supplies industry-wide are expected to remain tight this year, citing multiple unnamed “industry sources.”

    3-D printing, China, chips, earnings, iPhone, mobile, semiconductor, smartphone

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Evan Niu

Evan is a Senior Technology Specialist at The Motley Fool. He was previously a Senior Trading Specialist at a major discount broker. Evan graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a CFA charterholder.

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