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Why China’s economic gyrations will not affect Apple

August 24, 2015, 11:17 AM UTC
Apple iphone6 Begins To Sell In Mainland China
HANGZHOU, CHINA - OCTOBER 17: (CHINA OUT) People wait in line at an Apple store during the mainland release of iPhone6 on October 17, 2014 in Hangzhou, China. Apple recently announced iPhone6 will be released in China on October 17. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images)
Photograph by ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

Try to get all the noise about China’s economy out of your head for a moment. China’s heavily reported economic gyrations related to its stock sell-off and devaluing of its currency do not matter to Apple’s continued growth. Here’s why.

Simply put, it’s based on a false premise. The negative narration that has taken hold of Wall Street’s sentiment toward Apple essentially says that Apple’s future growth depends on increasing iPhone sales in China. And so when China’s economy has problems so will iPhone sales, and Apple’s revenue growth will decrease.

Let’s look at the facts, shall we?

Fact #1

Year-over-year first-quarter iPhone sales growth has always gone in one direction, and one direction only: up. In fact, ever since the iPhone’s introduction in 2007 year-over-year sales have never decreased. This includes iPhone sales increasing after the historic U.S. economic meltdown in 2008. And after the 2012 AAPL stock sell-off in 2012.

iPhones sold each fiscal Q1:

Q1 2008: 2.32 million
Q1 2009: 4.36 million
Q1 2010: 8.74 million
Q1 2011: 16.24 million
Q1 2012: 37.04 million
Q1 2013: 47.49 million
Q1 2014: 51.03 million
Q1 2015: 74.47 million

Fact #2

At the July 21st Q3 earning results, Apple reported year-over-year iPhone sales in China had increased 112%.


Fact #3

Every Apple store they open immediately increases revenue and profits. Apple stores generate more sales per sq. ft. than any other retailer (almost double the second ranked retailer Tiffany & Co.). Apple currently has 454 brick & mortar stores in 16 countries: 265 in the U.S., 19 in mainland China, and 4 in Hong Kong—with two ‘flagship’ stores in Shanghai and Shenzhen. At the last earnings results Tim Cook announced Apple plans to build 40 more in China by mid-2016. (There are online stores in 39 countries.) That’s a lot of infrastructure growth in China contributing directly to Apple’s bottom-line growth. But that is only the beginning. Why? Because of the 12 largest cities in China, all of them are bigger than any American city except New York. Let the scale of the untapped China market potential sink-in a moment.

The fear hype

The media’s current gloom and doom narration is that China’s absurdly huge GDP growth of 7.4% is slowing down a bit—yet still growing faster than the anemic U.S. GDP by a Pacific mile, at just 2.4%. And Wall Street is worried about this?

A hypothetical worst-case scenario

So let’s say, hypothetically, that China’s economy stumbles really, really badly—for whatever reason. And that as a consequence, millions and millions of affluent Chinese consumers—whose demand for iPhones has thus far been so great that they are willing to pay a big premium to middlemen waiting in line at U.S. Apple stores just to get their hands on the latest iPhones as soon as they are available—suddenly decide they don’t want to buy them anymore. Let’s say iPhone sales growth in China gets reduced by a whopping 50%. Half of what they are now. That would translate into half of 112% of this year’s 3Q YoY sales, or a 56% YoY growth (in the historically slowest quarter no less—just before the new iPhones are released in September).

In other words, even if iPhone sales in China got whacked by half, Apple would still be growing sales in China by over 50% YoY. What other company on the planet would not want their flagship product’s growth to be over 50% YoY during their slowest quarter in their biggest growing market?

Bottom line

All the fear being pumped out by the media about China’s potentially faltering economy adversely affecting iPhone sales is based on a false premise. Think of it as the “Law of Large Numbers” in reverse. With such a huge iPhone sales rate-of-growth in China combined with a relatively small smartphone marketshare, China is simply too big a market to stop Apple’s iPhone growth regardless of what their economy does.

Apple (AAPL) is still a growth company. That’s a fact, not an opinion.

David Thall is a member of Investor Village’s AAPL Sanity group, where he posts as djt.

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