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Analyst says iPhone X sales are ‘worse-than-expected,’ downgrades key Apple supplier

Tae Kim
J.P. Morgan analyst Narci Chang wrote in a research note that "high-end smartphones are clearly hitting a plateau this year."

Recent reports of meager Apple iPhone X sales may be accurate, according to one Wall Street firm.

Taiwan's Economic Daily reported in late December the tech giant will cut its forecast for the iPhone X, citing unidentified sources. The report spurred a sell-off in Apple's stock the following day.

Now, KeyBanc Capital Markets is telling clients that demand for the iPhone X is below expectations and less than Apple's iPhone 8 models.

"While iPhone X supply has improved meaningfully and remains very lean, feedback indicates sell-through has been somewhat disappointing," analyst John Vinh wrote in a note to clients Sunday. "IPhone X demand was lower than the iPhone 8/8 Plus due to the price tag and limited promotion. However, the inventory level remains healthy given Apple just resolved the supply constraint. Based on our conversations with carriers, we saw worse-than-expected iPhone X demand."

As a result, Vinh lowered his rating for Cirrus Logic , a leading provider of audio chips to smartphone makers, to sector weight from overweight. Apple represents 79 percent of Cirrus Logic's sales, according to FactSet.

Apple's stock was flat Monday morning, while Cirrus Logic fell 2.2 percent.

"Our latest handset surveys indicate the current iPhone 8/X is unlikely to be a catalyst for the [Cirrus Logic] stock as iPhone X sell-through has been disappointing despite meaningful improvements in supply," Vinh wrote.

The analyst noted that total iPhone demand "appears inline" to the firm's estimates due to iPhone 8 promotions.

"Our latest survey indicate buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) promotions across all four major carriers for the iPhone 8 were effective in driving healthy sell-through and keeping inventories in check," he wrote.

Apple and Cirrus Logic did not immediately respond to requests for comment.