October 31, 2012 at 12:26 PM EDT
AAPL: RBC, JP Morgan Upbeat; Stock’s Corrected, Says Kass
Shares of Apple ( AAPL ) are down $9.32, or 1.6%, at $594.68, backing off of the low of the session of $587.70, as the stock market got its first chance to weigh in on the sacking Monday evening of two top executives, Scott Forstall , the head of development for the iOS software that powers the iPhone , iPad and iPod Touch , and John Browett , who had been hired just this January to run the company's retail operations. As I wrote yesterday , the initial reports from Street sell-side research were fairly positive, calling Browett a bad fit for the Apple retail culture, and suggesting that Forstall's loss was made up for by the new responsibilities given to Apple hardware genius Jony Ive . There are more of those notes today, but also skeptical pieces. Amit Daryanani with RBC Capital Markets reiterates an Outperform rating on Apple shares and a $750 price target, observing, "While there will be concerns around future execution given Mr. Forstall’s departure, we note that AAPL has navigated through past turnovers impeccably (Jon Rubentein, Tony Faddell, etc.)." Daryanani opines Apple will move past " Mapgate " and that the executive team now in place is capable of doing what needs to be done: We believe that Map issues are fixable and the app will continue to evolve and improve over time. Overall, with Tim Cook continuing to lead Apple, we believe the core management team should execute over the next twelve months and beyond. Mr. Browett’s departure is likely driven by his “staffing formula” back in Aug-12, which led to retail employees seeing their hours cut and stores getting understaffed. Given the anger and frustration expressed by its retail employees, Apple soon reverted to the prior system of staffing its retail stores. JP Morgan 's Mark Moskowitz this morning reiterates an Overweight rating and a $770 price target, writing that "There is likely to be a spirited debate in coming days over the potential fall-out" of the Mapgate "debacle," "but we are encouraged to see CEO Tim Cook making swift decisions and holding decision-makers accountable ." Moskowitz thinks the Maps application "did not have adequate staffing resources," but he also raises the risk that Forstall might "head to a competitor such as Google or Microsoft to build out their mobile operating system prowess." Moskowitz thinks Jony Ive's sticking around is a big relief to investors. Seabreeze Partners's Doug Kass , who had been concerned about issues such as internal conflict and the direction of Apple innovation for the last couple months, today weighs in with the news that he has "taken a small trading long rental AAPL at under $590."
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