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Apple shares to struggle over the next 12 months on weak iPhone X demand, Instinet says

Thomas Franck

Apple's iPhone X demand remains soft while the latest look into its services business growth proved "good not great," according to Nomura Instinet.

Analysis of recent iPhone average selling prices — a key metric offering insight into the generations of iPhones being sold — implied a thinner mix of iPhone X volumes than hoped, analyst Jeffrey Kvaal said in a note to clients Monday.

"iPhone volumes are not deteriorating though iPhone X remains uninspiring," Kvaal wrote. "Apple guidance implied third fiscal-quarter iPhone unit volumes that were better than feared. We do not believe, however, sell through has meaningfully improved."

Kvaal, who maintained his neutral rating on shares of the technology company, said part of the problem stems from a decline in the rate of phone upgrades, with the average upgrade rate at the major U.S. telecommunication companies slipping to 5.3 percent in the first quarter of the calendar year.

The analyst sees Apple slumping 6 percent from last week's close to $175 over the next 12 months.

"We see little reason for [the upgrade rate] to improve in the near term," he added. "None of the carriers appear particularly distraught by the lower gross adds — and lower churn — that accompanies the lower upgrade rate. Verizon expects to remain disciplined and Sprint also expects to be less promotional."

Kvaal also argued that while Apple's services business should continue to grow at a solid pace, Wall Street would be better able to assess the impact of the segment if the company were more forthcoming about its revenue generation.

Services revenue has consistently grown above 20 percent on an annualized basis, with recent strength in licensing, App Store, and AppleCare keeping the progress on track. Still, Kvaal isn't entirely convinced.

"Apple has made several sustainable improvements to the Services growth trajectory," he said, "[but] we believe the tailwind from licensing and from AppleCare may ease in coming quarters. ... We would appreciate better disclosure from Apple on its Services business to help gauge revenue growth."

Shares have gained roughly 10 percent this month, rallying after both strong earnings performance and guidance as well as an additional investment from Warren Buffett , who revealed that Berkshire Hathaway bought an additional 75 million shares.

The stock's price was $186.31 as of Friday's close, implying a market cap of $915 billion and within $20 of making Apple the first company to ever reach a value of $1 trillion. The stock closed at an all-time high of $190.04 on May 10. In was up 1.3 percent Monday morning.