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Posts Tagged ‘AAPL’

Upfront cash and cashflow from Apple’s rumored iPhone in China deal

Washington Post’s Tameka Kee reports that Apple’s rumored 5 million iPhone sale to China Unicom will generate about $100 per unit in profit for Apple. Kee states that this is less than the estimated $400+ per unit that Apple now gets on its deal with AT&T. My reaction … “Um, yeah … no kidding” … We’re not on a level playing field in China. We need to get a toehold in China, with some 700 million wireless consumers, and then go from there. Besides this deal is far more profitable than the initial margin calculations suggest.

picture-342Let’s do a quick breakdown … iSuppli has a BOM estimate of $178.96 for the iPhone 3GS. The report from CBN states that Apple’s iPhone deal with China Unicom is for 5,000,000 iPhones purchased upfront for $1.46 billion. That’s $292 per unit less the $178.96 = $113. But there are other variables to consider. Apple will almost certainly NOT be providing China Unicom with the standard iPhone 3GS model. The special model for China will likely be the new model A1324 and it will likely cost less to build and distribute. If numerous reports are to be believed, this model will not include WiFi (a $5 to $10 savings per unit). Moreover, it is likely that China Unicom will cover virtually all shipping, marketing and distribution expenses associated with a China iPhone launch. So you can knock off another $18 to $25 per unit in expenses that Apple would normally incur.

Whether Apple will receive ongoing App Store and iTunes revenues under this China deal is a large question mark? Pure conjecture on my part, but I would not be surprised to learn that Apple has assisted China Unicom with the development of a China Unicom branded version of Apple’s App Store and iTunes. A bit more background and flat out guesswork

Li Yizhong - MIIT VM

Li Yizhong - MIIT VM

Apple’s China iPhone negotiations have ostensibly been with potential carrier partners (first China Mobile and later China Unicom), but the watchful parent has always been in the background whispering instructions into the child’s ear. It is my view that China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has had the final say on the iPhone deal terms. And it’s apparent that China’s MIIT has no intention of allowing Apple, or any handset manufacturer for that matter, to capture substantial wireless value added services (WVAS) revenues that China feels belong to its indigenous carriers. Consequently, to get any iPhone deal done in China, Apple may have been required to give up a large portion of revenues from the Apple iPhone platform (iTunes and App Store). picture-2That does not mean “no apps” or music for China iPhone owners. It just means a different platform, one with China Unicom’s brand. This will likely be a cloned version of Apple’s platform designed by Apple for China Unicom. I believe that Apple will be (shhhh … quietly) “cut in” for a certain percentage of WVAS revenues despite all of the posturing in the China tech press that “Apple will forego its revenue sharing model.” Since saving face is very important in China, I expect that Apple will not publicly disclose any assistance they may provide to China Unicom in developing their special iPhone WVAS platform, and nor will they publicly identify (break out) revenues from this WVAS partnership.

As with most Apple ventures, the iPhone deal in China will prove to be handsomely profitable and cash will continue to accrue to Apple’s bottom line … starting with a cool $1.46 billion up front!

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5 million iPhone package sale to China Unicom? Carrefour to be a key iPhone distribution partner?

iphone-china-unicom-111-150x150Update – August 13, 2009: According to the Associated Press, China Unicom spokesman Yi Difei has denied the reports of an iPhone deal and large iPhone pre-purchase. Yi Difei stated “The report is not true.”… “There are all kinds of possibilities. There is no particular timetable for the talks.” Despite this denial, Zhou Fang, the CBN reporter who broke the story, discounts the China Unicom denial and noted that he had made audio recordings of the interviews with the Guangdong Unicom executives (Zhou Youmeng and Yu Zaonan) who spilled the beans.

Adding further legitimacy to the original CBN report is a post today on Interfax TMT and the news today from a Carrefour source. Chongqing Evening News, quoting a Carrefour employee, states that the iPhone in China deal is a go and Carrefour would indeed be part of the distribution plan. The report states that iPhones could be ready to go on sale as early as late August and that Carrefour stores in Guangzhou and other costal areas have begun preparing store displays.

Picture 1DoNews in China, citing “unnamed sources,” claims that China Unicom’s handset distribution division Vsens intends to have two other iPhone distribution channels (aside from retail chains) including CarrefourGomeand Suning. iPhonAsia (yours truly) had previously speculated that retail chains distributing iPhones might include Best Buy China and Wal-Mart China.

20073229August 11, 2009: According to an August 11 report in China’s CBN.com(China Business News), China Unicom has agreed to pre-purchase for inventory five million (5,000,000) special “for China” iPhones from Apple. The report states that China Unicom will pay Apple 10 billion CNY (USD $1,463 billion) or 2,000 CNY (USD $292.60) per unit, and that China Unicom will have a 3-year iPhone exclusive in China. CBN cites Guangdong Unicom’s Deputy General Manager Zhou Youmeng, as a prime source for this story.

Guangdong Unicom is a subsidiary of Beijing-based China Unicom. China Unicom’s subsidiaries are often quite independent and don’t always check with the parent in Beijing before launching marketing initiatives or speaking (leaking) to the media. Shanghai Unicom had their wrist slapped rather severely for comments to reporters re the rumored “iPhone deal” and for their publication of iPhone images on their subsidiary website back in March. It will be interesting to see how Beijing handles this latest leak by the Guangdong subsidiary. NOTE: Guangdong/Canton is China’s most populous region with over 150 million people.

445326.binCBN reports that China Unicom employees have been training on thenew model iPhone for China Unicom and it will be ready for launch in September. CBN also claims that Carrefour (134 superstores in China) will be a key iPhone distribution partner in China.

Marbridge Consulting reports that the new model iPhone for China was spotted by reporters attending the signing ceremony for China Unicom’s agreement with Carrefour. The new iPhone was apparently on hand as one of several 3G handsets that will be sold for China Unicom through Carrefour superstores.

Another source for the story, Yu Zaonan, a manager in Guangdong Unicom’s individual client department, stated that the iPhone will be priced at 2,400 CNY (USD $351) for an 8GB iPhone and 4,800 CNY ($702) for the 16GB model. Zaonan qualified his comments to CBN by stating that this plan was contingent on the formal signing of the deal by Apple and China Unicom in Beijing.

This latest buzz matches recent “insider source” leaks reported via Interfax TMT’s Cindy Ging and aJuly 28 report by China’s Oriental Morning Post.

With Greg Joswiak’s (Apple VP for iPhone Product Marketing) very recent trip to China, it appears that the “iPhone in China” deal may soon become more than just a hot rumor. 5 million iPhones will be, by far, Apple’s largest single iPhone package sale.

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Greg Joswiak

Greg Joswiak

Sina.com is reporting this morning that Greg Joswiak, Apple VP for iPhone Product Marketing, will lead a team from Apple on an iPhone mission to China. Touch down in Beijing is rumored to be later this week. Sina.com suggest this trip will be a restart of iPhone negotiations. The literary will include meetings with China Unicom and discussions with China’s telecom authorities.

iPhonAsia wonders whether this is less a “restart of talks” and more a finalization of key marketing and distribution plans? There has been growing evidence of progress along the iPhone to China path including possible production of a new iPhone model (A1324) for China.

apple-girlThis will not be the first team from Cupertino to trek to China on an iPhone mission. In April ’09, I believe that senior Apple execs flew to Beijing to visit with China Unicom. This reciprocated China Unicom’s ten-day (March 8th – 18th) meetings with Apple in Cupertino.

What loose ends need to be tied up before the ink goes on the iPhone in China contracts?

  • Discussion re marketing plans with China Unicom.
  • iPhone distribution plans in China – via Best Buy?, Wal-Mart?, Vsnes.com?, Apple Stores and authorized resellers, Foxconn’s Cybermart?
  • Conversations with MIIT over WiFi on iPhone. Will a launch delay to year-end enable Apple to submit a WAPI/WiFi iPhone for fast-track testing/approval? Or will Apple go with (as rumored) a special customized for China iPhone without WiFi?
  • Delivery of wireless value-added services – Apple’s platform or China Unicom’s?
  • New mobile WVAS (e.g. apps and music) payment system for the vast majority in China who don’t own credit cards.
  • Discussion and analysis of China Unicom’s WCDMA 3G network readiness.*
  • Obtaining the all important network access license (NAL) from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

05-china-unicom-3gThere has been some recent buzz (previous Sina.com article) over the possibility that Apple may be ceding delivery of apps and music to China Unicom’s “Wo” (3G services brand name) platform. Translation from Sina.com post:

It is worth noting that it did not configure the Apple iPhone’s WiFi global functions, the process of random incidental nor with iTunes Music Store, as well as store applications (App Store).”

iphone-china-unicom-112Why might Apple cede delivery of wireless (apps and music) services to China Unicom?

  • China’s telecom industry, supported by their regulatory authorities, may have demanded this concession to protect “carriers’ interests.”
  • Paying for music in China is a novelty (free downloads are the rule). Very few in China have credit cards and payment for value-added services may need to be integrated with China Unicom payment systems.
  • China Unicom is rumored to be providing generous subsidy plans for iPhone (selling iPhone below the price they pay to Apple per unit). This suggests that they will need to make up revenues from higher plan rates and/or value-added services fees.

Why Apple may have drawn the line in the proverbial sand and insisted that Apple retain control over their China App Store and iTunes**:

  • iPhone’s reputation is a reflection of its entire ecosystem, which includes Apple’s wireless valued-added services (WVAS) such as the App Store and iTunes. China Unicom has a long way to go in building out their own WVAS platform. Integration between iPhone and its WVAS platform needs to be seamless not kluge.

I’m cautiously optimistic that an iPhone deal will be concluded soon and I view Apple’s latest trip to China as a positive sign. My guess for a China iPhone “deal signed” announcement date is late Summer with a launch in the Fall of 2009.

Footnotes:

* China Unicom will have solid WCDMA 3G coverage in all major cities by Fall. They are spending big to accomplish this mission. China Unicom plans to have 125,000 base stations up by year-end. That’s more 3G base stations than all the operators in Western Europe have rolled out in the 9 years since the 3G wireless standard has been in existence.

** There is a chance that Apple might create a clone of their iTunes and China App Store and simply re-brand it for China Unicom. This will allow China Unicom to save face and still allow for a seamless integration between iPhone and its platform.

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route-apps-20090608gene_munster_01Piper Jaffray Analyst Gene Munster appeared on CNBC’s Fast Money program today (July 7). See video below. Discussion of Apple (AAPL) begins about halfway through the video. According to Piper Jaffray’s channel checks iPhones and Macs are selling well and should have a favorable impact on Apple’s (AAPL) earnings. As Munster puts it: “There’s no question that now is a good time to own Apple (AAPL) … June is going to be good, but September and December are going to be huge for these guys (Apple) … iPhone apps are like a boa constrictor, these apps on the iPhone are slowly squeezing the life out of the competition … This is going to be a strong back-half of the year for Apple (AAPL).”

macbook-promo-image20090608Munster suggested that Apple’s recent decision to cut Macbook prices was a smart business move. He noted that inventories are low and believes that Apple sold at least 2.2 million Macbooks during the third quarter. According to Munster: “We track product lead-times and our records show that Apple has never had a 7-10 day delay on its most popular 13″ model, with the most recent significant delay being 5-7 days over 2 years ago in 9/08.” …”We see this as a sign that demand is outpacing the company’s build expectations, and it may take several weeks to reach a supply demand equilibrium.” Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Media, Street traders and litigators feign outrage over Apple’s failure to Tweet daily on Steve Jobs’ health

It was revealed on Friday that Steve Jobs had a liver transplant back in March. After a several months of recuperation, Steve Jobs will soon return to work at Apple. Story over, move on! Steve is … and so are Apple (AAPL) shareholders.

sjobsAlas, no … the sanctimonious financial media, once again, trotted out their legal beagles to weigh in on “ethics” and “disclosure responsibility” of Apple Inc. surrounding Steve Jobs’ health status. Never mind that Apple went to great lengths in January to explain that new tests revealed that Steve Jobs’ hormonal imbalance (causing his weight loss) was more complex than first thought … and that based on this new medical information, Steve would need to take a 6-month leave of absence. Okay … we all know about Steve’s past Whipple procedure and islet cell neuroendocrine tumor treatment. Given the new revelations in January, and Steve’s need to take a leave, AAPL shareholders understood that Jobs’ condition was not trivial. Clear message sent. AAPL shareholders understood that this was a serious situation that needed Steve’s focus and full attention from his medical team.

Apple COO, Tim Cook

Apple COO, Tim Cook

As an Apple (APPL) shareholder, I can say “we get it,” and we respect Steve’s right to privacy during this leave of absence. The only ones freaking out are the pretenders. Serious AAPL investors are very comfortable with Tim Cook and the rest of Apple’s deep bench (Peter Oppenheimer, Jonny Ive, Phil Shiller, Ron Johnson, Scott Forstall, Bob Mansfield, Mark Papermaster, Dan Cooperman, Bernard Serlet, Sina Tamaddon, et. al.). Moreover, select members of Apple’s Board have been consulting with Steve’s doctors and closely monitoring Jobs’ health status. Finally, whether Steve Jobs moves to a less than full-time role (e.g. moving to Chairman with Cook as CEO) or not, Jobs’ DNA is deeply embedded in the company and Apple’s product menu is well defined for years to come.

To the “slimebucket” posers that continue to scream over inadequate disclosure (daily Tweets from Steve Jobs’ doctors would not be enough due to 140 character limit), I say you are not speaking for AAPL shareholders (certainly not this shareholder). You are, in fact, doing the dirty work for Wall Street’s “shoot first” traders, and “sue always” lawyers.

Here’s my favorite quote of the day courtesy of kylobbist over on AAPL Sanity

“So let me get this straight … The Masters of the Universe on Wall Street, along with the executives and boards of the major banks and investment firms basically were running a big ponzi scheme among themselves and screwed the markets, the economy and their customers, which required a massive and unprecedented infusion of taxpayer dollars to save their hides along the way … but we are supposed to be outraged at the “ethics” and “immorality” of whether and how Steve Jobs got a liver transplant??? … Yeah, whatever”

Video: Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address 2005 – Steve talks movingly about life’s journey


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Apple Sells Over One Million iPhone 3GS Models – iPhone 3.0 Software Downloads Reach Six Million

hero-1-20090608Apple issued a Press Release this morning to announce over one million sales of the new iPhone 3G S in its debut weekend. This number exceeds most analysts projections. Many Street mavens and pundits had presumed that Apple (AAPL) would not break 500,000. The most optimistic analysts had projected that Apple might sell about 750,000 in the opening weekend. Today’s 1 million+ sold announcement is a clear “beat” (above Wall Street expectations).

title-20090608

The Apple PR also highlighted that iPhone 3.0 Software downloads have now reached six million. The new iPhone operating system brings over 100 new features such as Cut, Copy and Paste, MMS*, Spotlight™ Search, landscape keyboard. The new 3.0 OS also adds new tools for iPhone developers, including the ability to:

  • create push notifications
  • add APIs for integration with hardware devices
  • add “in app” purchases

steve_jobsToday’s Apple PR is also notable as it contains a direct quote from Steve Jobs, who has been on a temporary leave of absence;
“Customers are voting and the iPhone is winning,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “With over 50,000 applications available from Apple’s revolutionary App Store, iPhone momentum is stronger than ever.”

It was revealed over the weekend that Apple’s CEO underwent a liver transplant two months ago. His recovery is progressing well and Steve Jobs is expected to return to work at the end of June. More on this story via Apple 2.0

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iPhone in China deal FUD 

NOTE: Lead buried at post’s end – Beijing Apple iPhone job posting

iphone-china-unicom-111I’ve been picking up some rather annoying buzz about a story on China’s NBD.com (use Google translate). The NBD.com post states that Apple and China Unicom “are not making progress in negotiations” and iPhone is “now less important in China Unicom’s strategy.”  This story and several other regurgitated articles — Marbridge Consulting, Trading Markets, etc. — are being read by institutions and hedge funds that trade in Apple (AAPL) shares. These institutions are being spoon-fed pure FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).

My research suggests that the deal is still a “go” and will be announced before end of July. The official launch of iPhone in China will likely be later this summer. wifi-music-store-headerThe only wildcard that could delay launch is Apple’s possible inclusion of China’s WAPI encryption layered over WiFi. There has been no good visibility on Apple’s WAPI plans, so my guess is as good as the flip of a coin – WAPI/WiFi yes or no?  WAPI/WiFi would require a special production run* of iPhone for China.

I believe the current “deal stalled” stories are coming as a result of China Unicom’s recently announced plans to develop UniPlus, their own mobile operating system (an Android recode) and UPhone, a customized Android-based handset. I first wrote about this in April and more recently here > China Unicom and China Mobile unveil operating systems.

China Unicom’s UniPlus/UPhone have been in the works for many months. This move mirrors and matches China Mobile’s Android OPhones and their proprietary OPhone mobile operating system (MOS) which is still under intense development. China Unicom had to respond in kind. In late March, I engaged in a lengthy public debate with Dr. Cheng Dejie, a senior telecom analyst in China, about the carriers’ move to develop their own MOS and proprietary handsets > read Apple’s iPhone in China Negotiations

china-unicom-to-offer-iphone-and-g1-in-chinaThe recent media reports seem to infer that UniPlus/UPhone will leave no shelf-space for iPhone as China’s carriers are now attempting to Appleize** their own wireless platforms. In the case of China Mobile, that may well be true (at least in 2009). In the case of China Unicom? Well, yes, they’re also Appleizing** but they are smart enough to know that “me too” UPhones may not be compelling enough to grab market share away from China Mobile. Hence, they will partner with Apple to offer an official iPhone in China. UPhones and iPhones can exist side-by-side in China Unicom’s Vsens.com inventory. The Chinese consumer will ultimately pick the winners.

iphone-south-koreaNow that I’ve buried the lead, hear it is … Today’s (June 10, 2009) Apple Job Posting – Program Manager, Beijing China. Duties: Responsible for supporting and managing iPhone Training Program across Asia. Responsibilities will include working with all carrier partners that sell iPhone to implement and design training programs. Individual will work with the Apple Sales Teams on planning and training retail channel partner personnel on selling iPhone.

Still believe the iPhone in China deal is in jeopardy? Smart money says it’s coming soon!

2545_hwr* iPhonAsia has long theorized that China would have a special production run of iPhone that might include several pre-loaded apps for China (e.g. Youku vs Youtube). The new model iPhone 3GS unveiled at WWDC already supports (w touch of globe icon) 30 different languages, including both simplified and traditional Chinese. Apple’s iPhone in China will also support Chinese character recognition whereby users draw Chinese characters with predictive capability.               

Read > Apple buys rights to HWPen from Hanwang************

 

**Appleizing = Carriers attempt to offer cool customized smartphones with a proprietary mobile operating system (MOS) designed to promote their own wireless value added services – WVAS.

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