Apple has way bigger problems than China, analysts say

GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty ImagesCustomers look at products in an Apple store in Beijing on December 11, 2018.

  • Apple’s revenue warning this week shook investors, sending shares plunging 10% and plaguing the broader market.
  • The tech giant pinned most of the blame on a slowdown in iPhone sales, primarily in China.
  • But China isn’t Apple’s biggest issue, according to a new analysis from CLSA, who points to the iPhones’ average selling price and rising competition as the “real problems.”

Investors were shaken this week as Apple warned late Wednesday it would miss revenue expectations for its fiscal first-quarter. CEO Tim Cook wrote in a letter to investors that lower-than-expected iPhone revenue, “primarily” in Greater China, was largely to blame, sending shares down 10% Thursday for their worst day in six years.

But that’s missing Apple’s biggest problems, according to a new report from Nicolas Baratte and Cherry Ma, analysts at Hong Kong-based CLSA, who point directly to the iPhone’s climbing average selling price (ASP) and increased competition from the likes of Huawei and others.

CLSA estimates the iPhone’s ASP is set to increase by at least 7% versus a year ago, to $US852. That would lead to the total iPhone units sold to decline by 20%, or by about 62 million units, they said.

“While Tim Cook blamed a slowing China economy and trade tension, we maintain that in our opinion the iPhone ASP is the biggest problem given uninspiring specs and rising competition in China and in Europe,” the analysts wrote.

“In particular, we think the Huawei P and Mate are a problem for Apple given similar hardware specs at 2/3rd or half the price.”

Apple said other issues impacting its revenue readjustment included foreign-exchange headwinds, weaker-than-expected iPhone upgrades, and customers taking advantage of a battery-replacement offer.

Here’s a breakdown from CLSA’s report of the comparisons between Apple’s products sold in China and its competitors’ products sold in China:

Apple products sold in China vs. competitors' products.CLSAApple products sold in China vs. competitors’ products.

More broadly, the analysts wrote that while Greater China accounted for the majority of the short fall, iPhone sales in other emerging markets also declined. Additionally, iPhone upgrades were weaker-than-expected in some developed markets, too.

But the majority of Apple analysts are holding onto their bullish views despite problems seemingly coming from all corners.

The majority of Wall Street analysts took down their price targets this week, but maintained their positive or neutral ratings. CLSA does not carry a price target or investment rating for the stock.

“While China demand, trade/tariff worries, lower priced competition, and competition in the mature smart phone industry are all clear headwinds for Apple, we stay bullish on the name purely on our belief in Cupertino’s ability to monetise its 1.3 billion active installed base and drive upgrades/services around this for the coming years,” Dan Ives, analyst at Wedbush, told clients on Thursday.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment about this report.

Read more about the market’s reaction to Apple’s announcement:

Apple shares.Markets InsiderApple shares.

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