Sunday, August 1, 2021

Apple’s latest record quarter: Why Apple loves China but hates sales figures

It’s another record quarter as a part of a record fiscal year for Apple. The revenue was nearly $63 billion, the profit more than $14 billion, and for the year Apple generated $265 billion in revenue and nearly $60 billion in profit. It’s the company’s eighth straight quarter of revenue growth, and that growth has accelerated every one of those quarters. This is a healthy company; you couldn’t find a healthier one if you tried.

Yes, Apple’s stock is getting hit because its guidance—the amount of money it expects to make during the current quarter—is actually slightly below what Wall Street analysts were expecting. For the record, the revenue Apple has guided to—between $89 and $93 billion—would be the most revenue Apple has ever generated in a quarter, and somewhere between 1 and 5 percent growth. In other words, get ready for another record Apple quarter, because this one’s shaping up to be huge.

As always, it’s worth reading between the lines of the federally-mandated financial disclosure tables and listening to the specifics of the company’s ritual phone call with financial analysts to see what else is on the company’s mind. Here are a few things that I noticed.

iPhones shipping backward

iphone xs xs max IDG

iPhone XS and MX Max.

One of the reasons Apple cited for its forecast of slower revenue growth next quarter than in previous quarters is the simple fact that its iPhone roll-out strategy is the opposite of its strategy last year. Then, the lowest-priced models (the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus) shipped months before the higher-priced iPhone X. This year, the reverse is true, with the iPhone XS and XS Max shipping toward the end of the quarter, and the iPhone XR not shipping until just a week ago.

The implication is that during the holiday quarter last year, the first wave of iPhone X sales happened, while this holiday quarter will miss the release of the iPhone XS and XS Max entirely. This is what they call, in the explaining-things-to-analysts business, a “tough compare.” (That’s the phrasing Apple CFO Luca Maestri used on the call when questioned about the revenue guidance by analyst Shannon Cross.)

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Tim Cook likes China and the global economy

If you’ve been listening to Tim Cook for the last few years, you know that he has been, and remains, bullish on the future of Apple in China. When asked on Thursday by Analyst Wamsi Mohan about Apple seeing slowdowns in some emerging markets, Cook blamed currency issues that required Apple to raise prices (thereby hurting sales) in some countries: Turkey, India, Brazil, and Russia were the markets he cited.

tim cook oct30 Apple

Apple’s Tim Cook seemed bullish on China in Apple’s Q4 2018 finanicals call.

But Cook went out of his way to exclude China from Mohan’s thinking. “Our business in China was very strong last quarter—we grew 16 percent,” he said, citing strong iPhone growth.

The cloud hanging over all discussions of China is the possibility that an escalating exchange of tariffs and other aspects of a trade war might hurt Apple, which assembles many of its devices in China as well as selling many products there. Analyst Katy Huberty asked Cook if he had any plans to diversity Apple’s supply chain, presumably to provide the company with a hedge on production in case U.S.-China relations deteriorated to the point that they might have an impact on Apple’s ability to produce and ship products.


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