What if Verizon did get an iPhone?
Suspending disbelief for a moment, Oppenheimer's Yair Reiner takes at face value Tuesday's Bloomberg story -- and the Wall Street Journal report that preceded it -- that Apple (AAPL) will be making an iPhone for Verizon (VZ) next year.
In a report to clients issued Wednesday morning, he looks at what that would mean for Apple's bottom line. His key points:
• Over the last year, Apple sold 11 million iPhones into AT&T's (T) installed base of 65 million subscribers. Some of those customers might switch to Verizon if and when it gets the device, but with its 83 million post-paid subs, Verizon would likely provide at least 12 million net additional unit sales for Apple.
• Adding a second U.S. carrier would blunt the competitive threat from Google's (GOOG) Android platform, which Verizon has been promoting heavily as its answer to the iPhone.
• AT&T's decision to make subscribers eligible for an iPhone 4 a year before their contracts expired would seem to lend support to the Bloomberg/Wall St. Journal rumor. "Was it a last-ditch effort to lock them in to new contracts before Verizon came aboard?" he speculates. "Then again, fear of a Verizon deal — rather than knowledge thereof — might have been motivation enough."
• "In terms of the P&L," he concludes, "an additional 12M units would translate into $7B-plus in revenue and $3.00-plus in EPS per year—which isn't pre-baked into expectations. Excluding this upside, Apple is currently trading at 16x NTM earnings—in line with the trough valuation of late '08. If everyone loves Apple, why's it so cheap?"
Reiner adds one caveat: A January debut runs counter to Apple's established iPhone refresh schedule. "Would Verizon just get a CDMA version of the current iPhone 4?" he asks. "Would it get a new iPhone? Neither scenario makes much sense given that the iPhone just got a huge upgrade and that another isn't likely before mid-2011."