Published in Mobiles

Apple shares plummet as China snubs iPhones

by on11 March 2024

Tame Apple Press goes into a full spin

The Tame Apple Press is enthusiastically writing stories about Apple’s non-existent AI capabilities, which will eclipse Microsoft, Google and Nvidia after the outfit's shares plunge to their lowest level this year as Chinese customers ditch their iPhones for cheaper rivals.

The company faces a double whammy of troubles, as one Wall Street trader wonders how big investor Warren Buffett will react.

So far this year, Apple shares are down nearly 12 per cent, compared with a 6.5 per cent gain for the S&P 500.

On Monday, Apple shares fell 2.5 per cent after EU regulators fined Apple £1.8 billion for breaking EU antitrust rules with its App Store policies.

On the stock market, Apple shares dropped 2.8 per cent to close at £154.40 on poor iPhone sales data from China.

Earlier that week Market research firm Counterpoint Research reported that Apple iPhone sales fell 24 per cent in China during the first six weeks of 2024 compared with the same period last year. Meanwhile, sales for China-based rival Huawei soared 64 per cent, Counterpoint said. However, overall smartphone sales in China slid seven per cent during the first six weeks of the year, the research firm said.

Counterpoint analyst Mengmeng Zhang said in a report that Apple is facing stiff competition in the posh smartphone segment in China from a resurgent Huawei with its Mate 60 series devices. Plus, Apple is getting squeezed in midrange phones from aggressive pricing by domestic vendors Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi.

Foxconn, the Taiwan-based firm that makes iPhones, said its February sales fell 12 per cent from a year earlier, showing slower sales for Apple products.

Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives said the mood in Apple stock is "dismal" as the company has missed out on the AI revolution.

In addition, Apple decided to scrap the development of a self-driving electric car after a decade of work. Apple reportedly spent more than £9.1 billion on the Apple car project before binning it last week to focus on artificial intelligence.

Ives said he thinks the mood in Apple stock will improve around the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in June. He said Apple is likely to talk about its AI innovations at WWDC.

"Right now the data points are not roses and rainbows for Apple and headline risk remains in the name," Ives said. "However, our view is all about navigating this next 1-2 quarters and getting on to the other side of easier comps, AI announcement at WWDC, the stronger upgrade cycle for iPhone 16, and the money-making opportunity of the golden installed base (of iPhone owners)."

Elsewhere on Wall Street, Jordan Klein, managing director for tech, media and telecom sector trading at Mizuho Securities, wondered what Warren Buffett would do with his firm's huge stake in Apple.

In a client note, Klein wrote, "What happens to Apple mood and the share price when/if we learn Uncle Warren is selling down his massive stake? My guess is the stock gets slaughtered."

Buffett's holding company, Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB), owns a nearly six percent stake in Apple.

"He is up a ton on his stake, and given that it is one (if not his biggest) single-share position and feels in trouble, I could see him selling sooner or later," Klein said.

In fact, I would not be surprised if he is selling right now. He knows that when that (SEC form) 13F comes out showing he started to sell, AAPL shares will get killed as retail investors rush for the exit."

Barron's reported that Berkshire's next 13F, showing its holdings as of the end of the first quarter, is due around May 15.

Rosenblatt Securities analyst Barton Crockett said in a client note that Apple's shine has faded as an innovator after it ended its Apple car project and released a " not-yet-ready-for-prime time Vision Pro" computer headset.

Crockett said Apple must introduce impressive generative AI innovations to regain some of its previous shine. He rates Apple stock as neutral and has a price target of £172.

"If Apple can launch inspiring new AI capabilities, that could go some way to easing the current funk," he said.

However, if you believe the Tame Apple Press, Jobs Mob already has AI technology, which is ready to clean its rival's clocks. But, there is nothing that actually suggests that this is the case. Even if Apple has something it will be several generations behind what its rivals have already developed.

Last modified on 11 March 2024
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