Apple shares slide by most in over four years on disappointing iPhone sales

Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:29am EST
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By Himank Sharma and Sayantani Ghosh

(Reuters) - Apple Inc's shares fell by as much as 12 percent on Thursday, staging their biggest percentage drop in over four years and slicing more than $50 billion from the company's market value, as disappointing holiday-period iPhone sales reinforced fears it is losing its dominance in smartphones.

Eighteen brokerages, including Barclays Capital, Mizuho Securities USA, Credit Suisse, and Raymond James cut their price targets on the stock of the world's biggest publicly traded company by an average $132 to $612.

Apple's shares slid to $450.66 at the open on the Nasdaq, before recouping some of their losses.

The stock hit a peak close of $702.10 on September 19, valuing the company at $658 billion. Since then, it has lost about $225 billion, or 35 percent, of its in market value -- or about the entire worth of Chevron Corp, the second biggest U.S. oil company.

Jefferies & Co cut its rating on Apple's stock to "hold" from "buy" and slashed its share price target by $300 to $500.

Jefferies analyst Peter Misek, who has previously raised red flags about Apple cutting orders to suppliers, said the iPhone slowdown was "real and material" and here to stay.

"We think Apple is losing the screen-size wars," Misek said, noting that demand was moving away from the iPhone's 3.5-inch and 4-inch screens to screens of 5 inches offered by rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, HTC Corp and Nokia Oyj.

Samsung, which is at the same time Apple's chief rival and biggest component supplier, overtook Apple as the biggest seller of smartphones in the third quarter, selling close to 500 handsets a minute.   Continued...

A security guard stands next to an Apple retail store during the release of the iPhone 5 in Shanghai December 14, 2012. . REUTERS/Carlos Barria