UBS: iPhone Sales In China May Get Whacked Because The Chinese Government Is Messing With Telecos


tim cook apple china mobile

REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Apple Inc.'s CEO Tim Cook (3rd L) reacts next to China Mobile Ltd's Chairman Xi Guohua (3rd R) at an event celebrating the launch of Apple's iPhone on China Mobile's network at a China Mobile shop in Beijing January 17, 2014.

Here's how you know Apple's go-go days are back for the stock.


It's up 1.2% today despite a fairly scary report about the iPhone from UBS.

Here's the key bit:

Complimentary Tech Event
Discover the future of SaaS in India
The 6-part video series will capture the vision of Indian SaaS leaders and highlight the potential for the sector in the decades to come.Watch on Demand
Our Speakers
Girish Mathrubootham
Brian E. Taptich

There are a couple developments in China that could negatively affect Apple's iPhone business, including the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC) (1) urging the three telcos to reduce their sales and marketing costs; and (2) taking the lead to form a tower-building company to manage mobile base stations. Our telco team sees these two factors potentially curbing the pace of the LTE and TD-LTE roll-out in 2014-15. UBS analyst Jinjin Wang estimates that China Mobile's original plan to add 80-90mn TD-LTE subscribers in 2014 could be halved to 30-40mn.

Lower marketing costs could affect the 50% of handsets subsidized


SASAC is considering a plan for all three telcos to reduce marketing costs by 20% or Rmb35-40bn, out of which handset subsidies likely amount to more than one-third. Some 50-60% of all phone sales in China are subsidized, and handset distributors suggest sales could be reduced. We estimate the high-end market (>$500 w/VAT) is roughly 20% of sales, of which Apple had a 33% share in C13. We think Apple sold about 25.5mn phones in China in C13 or 17% of its unit sales. China represented roughly 40% of unit growth prior to signing China Mobile. Elasticity of the high-end user remains untested though any subsidy cuts could slow recent momentum.

This is the only report we've seen on this. And Apple's stock is unfazed, so maybe it means nothing. But, put in your files as something to keep an eye on down the road.