Corning beats, but smartphone comments will be the near-term guide for the shares

Corning beats, but smartphone comments will be the near-term guide for the shares


Amid a falling stock market open this Tuesday morning, which comes on the heels of a Monday that was the worst day thus far for stocks in 2018, Disruptive Technology company Corning (GLW) reported better than expected December quarter earnings, beating on both the top and bottom lines. The sparse release from the company showed positive results across the majority of its business and hinted at expectations for the company’s top line to rise 5% this year. All in all, a solid report ahead of the company’s 8:30 AM ET conference call, which should shed far more details on its quarterly results and outlook. It’s that more granular view, especially for the smartphone market, that will determine how GLW shares will trade later today as well as those for Apple (AAPL) and Universal Display (OLED).

Piecing some comments together from its earnings press release, it appears Corning’s Display Technologies business (31% of sales) will continue to benefit from larger screen sizes and better LCD glass pricing, while Optical Communications (34% of sales) is expected to grow 10% year over year due in part to a contract with Verizon (VZ) as well as ongoing backhaul demand. That year over year improvement at the Optical Communications segment is forecasted without any benefit to be had from the recently acquired 3M Communications Market Division. Two of the company’s other segments – Life Sciences and Environmental Technologies – are slated to deliver positive sales gains, but there is some rather cryptic wording for the company’s Specialty Materials business (14% of sales)

As I noted above, Corning is holding its December quarter earnings conference call this morning and we expect the dialog to be had to provide far more details on management’s expectations as well as the dynamics, such as smartphone shipment expectations for the first half of 2018, that will impact product mix and profits. Current consensus expectations have the company delivering EPS near $1.80. Because the company’s Display Technologies business accounted for 46% of earnings in the December quarter and 47% in all of 2017, we expect Wall Street to pepper the company with questions surrounding iPhone production levels in the coming quarters. Those answers will determine the likelihood of those 2018 EPS forecasts that fall between $1.64 – $1.98 per share. Quite a wide berth, and the answers will determine if there is upside to our $37 price target.

I have shared there is much speculation over iPhone X production levels to be had, but we would remind subscribers the iPhone X is just one of Apple’s smartphone models. That said, given the rapid rise in the overall stock market year-to-date, up 6.7%-8.2% across the major market indices after yesterdays’ performance, and the 7% increase in GLW shares over the same time frame, Corning’s smartphone commentary could weigh on the shares if it indicates an overall weaker than expected smartphone market. It will also help chart the near-term direction for the Apple and Universal Display shares on the Tematica Investing Select List.

From my perspective, we are hearing reports of larger format smartphones from Apple and others hitting shelves later this year. Paired with the growing adoption of larger format organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays on both smartphones and TVs, as well as burgeoning demand for backhaul technologies that should grow in the coming quarters as 5G networks are built, we’ll use any pullback to be had in GLW shares in the near-term to improve our long-term position.



This week’s earnings season game plan

This week’s earnings season game plan


We have quite the bonanza of corporate earnings for holdings on the Tematica Investing Select List. It all kicks off tomorrow with Corning (GLW) and picks up steam on Wednesday with Facebook (FB). The velocity goes into over drive on Thursday with United Parcel Service (UPS) in the morning followed by Amazon (AMZN), Alphabet/Google (GOOGL) and Apple (AAPL). Generally speaking, we expect solid results to be had as each of these companies issues and discuss their respective December quarter financials and operating performances.

Given the recent melt-up in the market that has been fueled in part by favorable fundamentals and 2018 tax rate adjustments, we expect to hear similar commentary from these Tematica Select List companies over the coming days. The is likely to be one of degree, and by that I mean is the degree of tax-related benefits matching what the Wall Street herd has been formulating over the last few weeks? Clearly, companies that skew their geographic presence to the domestic market should see a greater benefit. The more difficult ones to pin down will be Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google, which makes these upcoming reports all the more crucial in determining the near-term direction of those stocks.

We are long-term investors that can be opportunistic, provided the underlying investment thesis and thematic tailwinds are still intact. Heading into these reports, the thematic signals that we collect here at Tematica tell me those respective thematic tailwinds continue to blow.

As we await those results, we continue to hear more stories over Apple slashing iPhone X production levels as well as bringing a number of new iPhone models to market in 2018. These reports cite comments from key suppliers, and we’ll begin to hear from some of them tomorrow when Corning reports its quarterly results. We’ll get more clarity following Apple’s unusual tight-lipped commentary on Thursday, and even if production levels are indeed moving lower for the iPhone X we have to remember that Apple’s older models have been delivering for the company in the emerging markets. Moreover, the company could unveil a dividend hike or upsized repurchase program or perhaps even both as it shares the impact to be had from tax reform. As I shared last week, there are other reasons that keep us bullish on Apple over the long-term and our strategy will be to use any post-earnings pullback in the shares to improve our cost basis.

In digesting Apple’s guidance as well as that offered by other suppliers this week and next we’ll be keeping tabs on Universal Display (OLED), which is once again trading lower amid iPhone X production rumors. As I pointed out last week, Apple is but one customer amid the growing number of devices that are adopting organic light emitting diode displays. We remain long-term bullish on that adoption and on OLED shares.

We’ve received and shared a number of data points for the accelerating shift toward digital shopping in 2017 and in particular the 2017 holiday shopping season. We see that setting the stage for favorable December quarter results from United Parcel Service and Amazon later this week. We expect both companies to raise expectations due to a combination of upbeat fundamentals as well as tax reform benefits. With Amazon, some key metrics to watch will be margins at Amazon Web Services (AWS) as well as investment spending at the overall company in the coming quarters. As we have shared previously, Amazon can surprise Wall Street with its investment spending, and while we see this as a positive in the long-term there are those that are less than enamored with the company’s lumpy spending.

In Alphabet/Google’s results, we’ll be looking at the desktop/mobile metrics, but also at advertising for both the core Search business as well as YouTube. Sticking with YouTube, we’ll be looking for an update on YouTube TV as well as its own proprietary content initiatives as it goes head to head with Netflix (NFLX), Amazon, Hulu and Apple as well as traditional broadcast content generators.

In terms of consensus expectations for the December quarter, here’s what we’re looking at for these six holdings:


Tuesday, JANUARY 30, 2018

Corning (GLW)

  • Consensus EPS: $0.47
  • Consensus Revenue: $2.65 billion


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Facebook (FB)

  • Consensus EPS: $1.95
  • Consensus Revenue: $12.54 billion


Thursday, FEBRUARY 1, 2018

United Parcel Service (UPS)

  • Consensus EPS: $1.66
  • Consensus Revenue: $18.19 billion


Alphabet/Google (GOOGL)

  • Consensus EPS: $10.00
  • Consensus Revenue: $31.86 billion


Amazon (AMZN)

  • Consensus EPS: $1.84
  • Consensus Revenue: $59.83 billion


Apple (AAPL)

  • Consensus EPS: $3.81
  • Consensus Revenue: $86.75 billion



Special Alert: Apple added to the Tematica Investing Select List

Special Alert: Apple added to the Tematica Investing Select List



  • We are adding shares of Connected Society company Apple (AAPL) to the Tematica Investing Select List with a $200 price target.
  • In our view, Apple and its new iPhone models are a 2018 story, and we see the recent string of upwardly revised expectations continuing as Apple tweaks its iPhone production and takes newer models global.
  • We would look to use pullbacks in the AAPL shares to improve our long-term cost basis.

This morning we are adding, some would say finally, Apple (AAPL) to the Tematica Select List. It’s no secret that those of us at Tematica are hardcore users of the company’s products — from MacBooks, iPhones and iPads, to the Apple Watch, Time Machine and various other devices. Despite its deep bench of product, Apple, at least for now, is a smartphone company. Even ahead of the recent launches of its iPhone 8, 8S and iPhone X products, Apple derived the bulk of its revenue and profits from the iPhone.

Apple does have other businesses like Apple TV that bolster its position in our Connected Society investing theme, and the company appears to be branching out into live content similar to Tematica Investing Select List companies Amazon (AMZN) and Facebook (FB). We suspect that like many past products and services, Apple will look to unveil its content offering when it is ready, not when the financial media thinks it will. We see that as an added tailwind on the horizon for AAPL shares, provided it can get the content right. Case in point, we were not won over by Apple’s Carpool Karaoke series; however, per the financial press, Apple appears to have recognized its shortcoming and has gone on a hiring spree to course-correct this effort.


For many subscribers, the probable question is “Why now?”

Candidly, we have always kept eyes on Apple’s business given how it touches our Connected Society investing theme as well as its shares. Were we underwhelmed by the company’s September event? Yes, we were, given the staggered nature of the new iPhone launches and the simple fact the company kicked off the event discussing how it was going to revolutionize its Apple Stores vs. talking products. There was also the concern that iPhone sales would pause as shoppers waited for the iPhone X to hit shelves not to mention rumored component shortages.

Over the last few days, orders for the iPhone X commenced and early indications suggest it will be a brisk seller. Almost all Apple store channels are now reporting 5-6 week delivery times for new iPhone orders across all configurations of size and color, which means new online orders will not be fulfilled until early December. The initially low production volumes were due to component constraints for the new 3-D face-scanning sensor and a circuit board for a new camera were to blame and Apple is expected to have this corrected in the coming weeks.

Turning to the iPhone 8, while sales have been tepid ahead of the iPhone X launch in the U.S., this morning a new report from Canalys shows the iPhone 8 has led Apple to break a run of sales decreases that stretches back six quarters. Per the report, Apple should see a 40% annual growth to 11 million iPhone units China during the quarter. As with any new product launch, we see Apple tweaking production between these new iPhone models to better match demand.

In our view, we are likely to see Apple up its iPhone X product and dial back production for the iPhone 8, which is a nice but modest upgrade from the iPhone 7 — a model that continues to sell well. That’s right, it’s not just about the new models – the older ones, which are less expensive, help drive Apple sales in the all-important emerging markets like India, where smartphone penetration is far lower than in the U.S. In the U.S., smartphone penetration passed 80% last year. By comparison, roughly one-third of mobile phone users have a smartphone in India, and that figure is expected to only move higher in the next few years.

As we look back on prior iPhone launches, we find ourselves saying “I’ve seen this movie before” and we have. It usually bodes rather well for Apple and we expect that to be the case once again given the large install base Apple has for the iPhone. Last summer Apple sold its 1 billionth iPhone, but as we know from experience and upgrades, not all phones sold are still in use. According to research from UBS, the number of active devices is around 800 million, roughly 80% larger than when Apple debuted the iPhone 6. Simply put, the larger the number of active users, the larger the number of people upgrading every time Apple unveils a new smartphone, especially as newer versions of iOS tend to make older iPhone painfully slow.

There is also the added benefit of Apple putting would-be iPhone buyers in a box as they look to match either an iPhone upgrade or a new purchase with storage needs. Given the increasing usage of the camera for pictures and video, Apple has upped available storage, but that comes at a cost. We see this as well as the iPhone X helping move Apple’s average iPhone selling prices higher in the coming months.

Apple will report its 3Q 2017 results later this week, and odds are given the timing of the new iPhone model launches the company will get a pass of sorts on that performance. In our view, the guidance will be what investors will be focused on, and they will be listening, as will we, not only on iPhone production commentary, but the timing around these models being launched in other markets. As these models go truly global, it makes the iPhone story and thus Apple’s story a 2018 event. We are not alone in that thinking given that current revenue expectations for 2018 have Apple delivering 17% growth to $266.8 billion vs. 5.5% growth this year. As this occurs, odds are the Wall Street bulls will once again return to AAPL shares, and we want to be there ahead of them.

We recognize Apple can have great quarterly earnings report that leads to AAPL shares popping, but from time to time the company has issued results that caused some degree of investor indigestion. We want to be positioned for the former, but we will use the latter should it happen later this week to improve the cost basis for AAPL shares on the Tematica Investing Select List for the longer-term. In our view, Apple is one of the companies that will expand its offering as our Connected Society continues to expand past smartphones and computers to the home, car and the Internet of Things. Apple is paving the way for proprietary content, adding to its position in the home with its HomePod digital assistant and growing its partnerships in Corporate America.


Apple’s story is far from over.

Our price target on Apple shares is $200 or 18x expected current 2018 consensus EPS of $11.16. We’d note that over the last few weeks that 2011 consensus EPS figure has crept up from $10.67, and there is the rather likely possibility we will see that figure move even higher as we enter 2018. Over the last several quarters, Apple has regained its past track record for beating bottom line expectations and given the high profile nature of the iPhone X we would not be shocked to learn Apple has once again sandbagged expectations for the second half of 2017.

Over the last five years, Apple shares have peaked at an average P/E multiple of 16x and bottomed out at 11x. That suggests an upside vs downside tradeoff in the shares between $120-$180, vs. the current share price near $160. As we noted above, we strongly suspect Apple will surprise to the upside in 2018 and could deliver EPS between $12-$13; the current high estimate for Apple EPS in 2018 sits at $13.29. In the coming quarters, provided Apple’s EPS beating track record continues, we see 2018 EPS expectations moving higher, and Wall Street bumping up price targets along the way. If Apple stumbles near-term, we would look to aggressively scoop up the shares between $140-$145.

  • We are adding shares of Connected Society company Apple (AAPL) to the Tematica Investing Select List with a $200 price target.
Yet again, boosting our price target on Universal Display

Yet again, boosting our price target on Universal Display


  • We are boosting our price target on Universal Display (OLED) shares to $175 from $135 given the increasingly apparent shortage in organic light emitting diode displays.

  • Maintaining our price target of $55 on Applied Materials (AMAT).

Over the last week following the introduction of the organic light emitting diode display (OLEDs) contained in Apple’s (AAPL) new iPhone X, Universal Display (OLED) shares on the Tematica Investing Select List have come into focus.

How into focus?

Even USA Today ran an article on the iPhone X that cited the current OLEDs shortage as the reason behind the later than expected shipping date for that new flagship Apple (AAPL) smartphone:

“OLED manufacturers can’t build the screens fast enough as they increasingly pop up on smartphones, high-definition TVs, watches, virtual reality headsets and other gizmos. It’s an issue that not only is dogging Apple, costing it billions of dollars in short-term sales, but has tripped up Samsung, HTC and Google, too.”

The article goes on to discuss OLED display dynamics, as well as the demand for the technology from larger format TVs and prospects for other applications. On the heels of that article, we are hearing chatter among traders that Wall Street firms are turning increasingly bullish on Universal Display shares, hence the “pop” in the share price over the last few days — opening above $140 at the bell this morning.

From our perspective, this is not necessarily new information and we’ve suspected that as the Apple event came and went, the herd would recognize Universal Display’s position in the OLED display industry. As the herd once again catches up to us, we’re going to leap ahead of them yet again by boosting our price target on Universal Display shares to $175 from $135. This new price target, which equates to 1.0x on a price to earnings growth basis when applied to consensus 2018 EPS expectations of $2.85 up from $1.10 in 2016, offers just over 20% upside from current levels.

  • We are boosting our price target on Universal Display (OLED) shares to $175 from $135.


As we boost this price target, we should also keep in mind the current organic light emitting diode capacity crunch bodes well for display equipment demand at Applied Materials (AMAT). As a reminder, Applied Materials is holding its 2017 Analyst Day on September 27th, and we expect a bullish update on both its display business as well as its semiconductor capital equipment one.

  • Our price target on Applied Materials (AMAT) shares remains $55



Here’s what we’ll be watching for at today’s Apple special event

Here’s what we’ll be watching for at today’s Apple special event

Several of the Disruptive Technologies investment theme companies currently on the Tematica Select List will play a key role in the Apple Special Event scheduled for Tuesday, September 12th. In all likelihood the companies themselves will never be mentioned during the event, but with expectations once again running high ahead the next generation iPhone, here’s what we’ll be watching for as it pertains to the Tematica Select List.


Early this afternoon, Connected Society and smartphone reliant Apple (AAPL) will hold its next special event that is widely expected to unveil a bevy of new products, including its latest iPhone models. Much has been made over the last few days of “leaked information” over these new models as well as new iterations for Apple TV and Apple Watch, but as exciting as those other new products may be because the iPhone is the majority of Apple’s revenue and profits odds are investors will focus their attention on those new models.

While we don’t own Apple shares, and we touched on at least one of those reasons yesterday, there are several companies on the Tematica Select List that will be affected by today’s special event – Universal Display (OLED), Applied Materials (AMAT), and AXT Inc. (AXTI) as well as USA Technologies (USAT) and Nuance Communications (NUAN).


Universal Display (OLED) 

As subscribers should be aware, Universal Display is a Disruptive Technology investment theme company that supplies needed chemicals and intellectual property utilized in the manufacturing of organic liquid crystal displays (OLEDs). Over the last few months, there has been much talk of ramping demand in an industry that is capacity constrained as Apple begins to adopt the technology in the iPhone while other applications (other smartphone vendors, TVs, wearables and automotive interior lighting) continue to replace existing lighting and displays with OLEDs. There are now indications that Apple is likely to introduce OLEDs in its new premium iPhone, purportedly the iPhone X.

The issue, however, is that it is being reported that the manufacturing of iPhone X device is currently capped at around 10,000 units per day and may not begin shipping until next month. This could be due OLEDs supply constraints, but if this speculation over the iPhone X turns out to be true, we could see a pullback in our OLED shares, especially following the more than 18% move in the last month alone that has the shares bumping up against our $135 price target. We continue to think that as the adoption of OLEDs continues to ramp up, we will see a step-function higher in our price target for Universal Display shares, but in the near-term, our concern is that rapid climb in the share price could hit a “buy the rumor, sell the news” wall following Apple’s event. If such an outcome occurs, our view is subscribers should continue to hold OLED shares for the long-term. If the shares retreated to the $110-$115 level, which would be a sharp pullback, we would view that as another bite at the apple for subscribers that have so far held off buying OLED shares.

  • Our price target on Universal Display (OLED) shares remains $135
  • For now, subscribers that have missed out on OLED shares should look to scoop them up between $110-$115.


Applied Materials (OLED) 

If the supposition that Apple’s iPhone X production is capped because of capacity constraints for OLEDs, we see that being a resounding positive for shares of Disruptive Technology company Applied Materials (AMAT). As a reminder, Applied not only manufactures semiconductor capital equipment (the machines that make chips) it does the same for displays, including OLEDs. Applied has been rather frank about the robust demand for OLEDs, and it remains one of the reasons we are bullish on AMAT shares. Others include rising memory demand as well as ramping in-country semiconductor capacity in China.

  • Our price target on Applied Materials (AMAT) shares remains $55.



We would be surprised to hear Apple talk about 5G wireless technology, which would require several additional layers of RF semiconductors, largely because most wireless carriers like AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and T-Mobile USA (TMUS) are still testing the technology. If, however, the Apple Watch is updated to include LTE wireless technology, that would be a source of new demand for RF semiconductors, like those from Skyworks Solutions (SWKS) and Qorvo (QRVO). In turn, that means those companies, as well as other RF semiconductor suppliers of Apple’s, would require additional compound semiconductor substrates from AXT Inc. (AXTI). While we still see the eventual deployment of 5G networks that will drive incremental RF semiconductor demand as the key driver longer-term for AXT’s business, incremental demand from devices like Apple Watch is certainly welcome.

  • Our price target on AXT Inc. (AXTI) shares remains $10.50


USA Technologies (USAT) & Nuance Comm. (NUAN)

Finally, during today’s presentations, we’ll also be watching and listening for incremental news on USA Technologies (USAT), an Apple Pay partner, as well as Nuance Communications (NUAN). In iOS 11, Apple will continue to expand the services offered through Apple Pay, and we expect to hear at least some usage statistics from Apple CEO Tim Cook today. With Nuance, voice continues to become the new interface of choice across new applications from smart speakers to chat-bots, like those being rolled out by Google (GOOGL), Facebook (FB) and yes, Apple, and that keeps us bullish on NUAN shares.

  • Our price target on USA Technologies (USAT) shares remains $6
  • Our price target on Nuance Communications (NUAN) remains $21.




Why we’re nonplussed on Apple even if the iPhone X is Awesome

Why we’re nonplussed on Apple even if the iPhone X is Awesome

While we too are interested in what Apple (AAPL) will be unveiling tomorrow, we’re not in the camp that expects the company to deliver a “shock and awe” presentation as it showcases its latest and potentially greatest iPhone model. Make no mistake, Apple’s iPhone business is impressive given its market share, margins, and cash flow generation, and it’s a device that many of us, including us here at Tematica, could not live without. The issue is the iPhone appears to be an increasingly iterative one in a market that is plagued by slowing growth and reliant on the upgrade cycle.

The reality is that while Apple will likely continue to enhance the iPhone, and pick up incremental share along the way, it’s no longer the disruptive device that redefined the company and the category. Rather, given the size of the iPhone business, relative to Apple’s revenue, profits, and cash flow, it’s one that it needs to fight and keep up with product upgrades, even as it has ratcheted up its R&D spending in 2016 and 2017. When we’ve seen such activity at Apple in the past, it has often led to new products and new product categories, which keeps us hopeful for the long-term. That said, Apple isn’t the only one that is ramping its R&D spending as our Connected Society theme continues to disrupt existing business models. We’d point to Amazon (AMZN) as the innovator to watch.


What We Can Expect to Hear from Apple

The excitement and rumor mongering over the last few months will soon be over tomorrow, September 12, as Apple will unveil it latest iPhone model or potentially models. Also, if the internet chatter is to be believed, upgrades for its Apple TV and Apple Watch products will be on presented as well.

Recent software leaks suggest the unveiling of several iPhone models, with at least one of them including new features in the device itself — things such as Face ID and augmented reality as well as an organic light emitting diode display (OLED). Aside from the hardware, there will be a bevy of new features associated with the latest version of the iPhone operating system, iOS 11. Candidly we’re not all that sure about the “Animoji” feature that uses the 3D face sensors to create custom 3D animated emoji based on the expressions you make into the camera. Our thinking is this feature could be like steroids for the selfie market. Rather than digress, we are very excited about the productivity features inside iOS 11 and what they mean for the iPad. We’ve been beta testers of the iOS 11 on our own iPads, and the improved split screen capabilities alongside true drag and drop, at least in our view, are going to make the iPad what many hoped it would be several years ago — a perfect device for working while on the go.

As great as the new iOS and other new products are likely to be — like the purported Apple Watch with built in LTE connectivity —, the big kahuna at the event will be the iPhone, and it is expected to come along with just as big of a price tag. While there have been many headlines discussing the potential $1,000 price tag for Apple’s new high-end smartphone, let’s remember there are a variety of financing mechanisms from mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon Communications as well as Apple’s own iPhone financing program.

Yes, some will balk at upgrading to the iPhone X because of its price or lack of a “wow-factor”, but we also know there is a cohort of consumers that see owning the latest Apple device as the latest status symbol for our Affordable Luxury investing theme. We also expect Apple will once again under-produce relative to initial demand, magically once again leading to the latest and potentially greatest iPhone being sold out. Make no mistake, we here at Tematica love all the Apple products we have, and we have plenty of them, but there is no easier way to stock out a new product than to restrict its initial supply. Of course, this only adds to the allure of being an early adopter, much the way until fairly recently spotting a pair of  Apple’s Air Pods has been akin to seeing a unicorn.

We are not surprised to see Apple potentially bringing multiple models to market as it looks to target share gains with the rising middle class in markets such as India and China as well as other more price-sensitive emerging economies. With the iPhone, likely the first internet connected device to be had by a person in these geographies, the device is a beachhead in which Apple can leverage its sticky ecosystem of products and services, in particular, its Apple Pay feature. If Apple is as successful as it has been in the U.S. and other developed markets, it’s a large opportunity for the company as well as shareholders.

The issue with Apple’s global expansion plans for the iPhone is that larger adoption of products and services takes time, and this means that if Apple is successful with these new iPhone models it will continue to be a trapped by its own success. By this we mean consumers flocking to the latest model in droves during the first six months of its release, only to see sales fade as potential buyers wait for the next new model to be had. If this cycle remains, it likely means Apple remains a seasonal business tied to the annual introduction of iPhone models… at least until it introduces either a new product category or an existing business segment delivers a new breakout product that turns the business mix on its head. Given the size of the annual iPhone business relative to the sizes of the Mac, iPad, Services and Other Products business segments, the latter is a daunting task to expect.

Perhaps the greatest risk to the new iPhone is the possibility that between Apple iOS beta software program and the annual rumor mongering, not to mention a disgruntled employee or two, much of what’s been slated to be shared for the new model has already been leaked. This could lead to a meh reception of what has been touted as a “make or break product for Apple.”  In other words, without an unexpected new, new thing to further implant Apple in our Connected Society investing theme, Apple shares could fall victim to “buy the rumor, sell the news” following tomorrow’s special event.