iPhone demand in China weakened further in February

Longbow Research analyst Shawn Harrison said yesterday that Apple’s supply chain and public demand for iPhones have suffered serious setbacks, and that it will take a long time for iPhone sales to recover.

Speaking to Bloomberg, he said: “Multiple iPhone price cuts did not stop China iPhone search trends from weakening further while February supplier sales were abysmal, decelerating on a year over year basis vs. January.”

Searches on China’s Baidu and Google are reportedly down by as much as 47% compared to a year ago. According to Harrison, 37 of the 42 suppliers tracked by Longbow reported “worse than seasonal” sales last month.

He added that with no improvement in iPhone sales being expected, they saw no catalyst to drive notable earnings per share increases over the short term.

Apple will likely publish its Q2 earnings report towards the end of next month. Wall Street expectations currently stand at $2.38 for EPS and $57.54bn for revenue, which would represent a drop of 5.9% in sales and 13% in profitability since last year.

The firm’s iPhone sales already plummeted 15% during the December quarter, with revenue falling to $84.3bn. At the time, analysts blamed competition from cheap smartphones in China – which happened to coincide with another iPhone price increase.

Apple’s attempts to resuscitate iPhone sales seem to have reduced the damage instead of turning things around. Many analysts don’t expect iPhone demand to recover before Apple releases the 2019 models.

JPMorgan wrote in a memo this week that income for the Apple suppliers that it tracked dropped by 1% annually in January and February, compared to growth of 13% and 4% during the same periods in 2018 and 2017.

Bank of America nevertheless believes that now is a good time to purchase Apple shares: the price is low and there’s potential for growth from services and healthcare in future.

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