Apple faces rough 2019 start in China with court battle, trade war and 5G spell

We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in China: Tim Cook.


Apple Inc’s chief executive Tim Cook has his work cut out in China this year: the iPhone maker faces the looming threat of a court-ordered sales ban, the uncertain outcome of trade war talks and the roll-out of a new 5G network, where it finds itself behind rivals like Huawei and Samsung.

The complex outlook raises a challenge for Apple as it looks to revive its China fortunes after weakness there sparked a rare drop in its global sales forecast, knocked $75 billion from its market valuation and roiled global markets.

Cook told investors that the main drag on the firm’s performance in China had been a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the country’s economy, exacerbated by the impact of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.

“We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” he said.

Chinese shoppers told Reuters another element had been key: the high price-tag on Apple’s flagship phones.

Apple faces rough 2019 start in China with court battle, trade war and 5G spell

You wouldn't want to be in Tim Cook's shoes right now. Reuters

Analysts said the firm faced a brewing storm of challenges: an economic slowdown, stronger rivals like Huawei Technologies Co Ltd bringing out comparable tech at lower prices and bubbling patriotic sentiment amid the trade war.

A Chinese court has also issued a preliminary injunction banning some Apple phones, part of a legal battle with chip maker Qualcomm Inc. This ban, potentially hitting iPhone models from the 6S through the X, has yet to be enforced.

On Thursday a local industry body, the China Anti-Infringement and Anti-Counterfeit Innovation Strategic Alliance, called on Apple to heed the court order and not “trample the Chinese law by leveraging its super economic power and clout.”

Apple declined to comment on the group’s statement but has previously said it believes its current phones comply with the Chinese court’s order.

“These are tough times for Apple in China,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint, adding the iPhone could see its market share slip to 7 percent this year in the face of stronger local rivals and worry about the sales ban.

Apple’s market share in the third-quarter of 2018 was around 9 percent, and has dipped from above 14 percent in 2015, overtaken by local rivals like Huawei, Oppo and Vivo.

 

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