Analyst Looks at Value of 'Chatter From iPod Suppliers'

In a research report he issued on Monday, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster discussed the "chatter from iPod suppliers," which some investors are using to help track iPod sales. For example, iPod supplier Inventec has said that its February sales were down significantly, but, Mr. Munster wrote, "much of the Street appears to be taking these various data points and assuming that they will directly apply to iPod sales for the quarter."

He continued: "While we understand that some of these data points appear to be painting a more negative picture of iPod sales, we believe a better indicator is actual data (vs. chatter/rumors) that is directly applicable and has a history of correlating highly with actual iPod shipments, such as point-of-sale monthly NPD data."

With 56 supply and manufacturing partners, according to Revere Research data cited by the analyst, Apple has "too many moving parts" for "making direct assumptions about [the company] from chatter out of these partners." Mr. Munster noted that only a few of those companies see a "majority of their revenue from Apple, while most receive revenue from many other companies that have products in totally different segments of the market."

"Additionally," he wrote, "most of the Apple suppliers and manufacturers do not provide any information on the amount of revenue derived from their business with Apple in any given quarter."

However, "over the last 10 quarters, NPD data has captured, on average, 42% of iPod unit shipments in its sample (which includes Apple retail stores) and the data has had a 0.99 correlation with actual reported iPod shipments over this time." Based on January sales data, Mr. Munster expects Apple to sell 9.3 million iPods this quarter, while he is modeling 9 million units sold and the Wall Street average points to 9.5 million.

He concluded: "It is important to note that this analysis is based on only 1 month of NPD for the March quarter, and we will wait to see the next data point (February data) before over-emphasizing this extrapolation." The analyst retained his "Outperform" rating on Appleis stock, with a US$103 12-month price target.

At 12:30 PM EST on Monday, Apple shares were selling for $65.42, up 3.53% for the day.

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