Apple: pay attention to emerging markets, not falling China sales

Apple’s chief financial officer Luca Maestri challenged investor worries over an 8% drop in China revenue, by noting that sales in other emerging markets are growing.

“When we start looking at places like India, like Saudi, like Mexico, Turkey, Brazil…and Indonesia, the numbers are getting large, and we’re very happy because these are markets where our market share is [currenttly] low,” Maestri said Thursday during Apple’s second-quarter earnings call.

Revenue declined to $16.37 billion in China during the second quarter

“The populations are large and growing, and our products are really making a lot of progress within those markets,” continued Maestri. “The level of excitement for the brand is very high.”

One thing Maestri said there is verifiable: the populations in emerging markets are, in fact, large and growing. But Apple’s growth in those regions isn’t as rosy a picture as the executive attempted to paint, according to available data.

Net sales in the Americas — which would include places like Brazil and Mexico — were down slightly year-over-year from $37.8 billion to $37.3 billion, according to Apple’s Q2 2024 report. Sales in the “rest of Asia Pacific,” which would include emerging markets like India and Vietnam, were down 17% from $8.1 billion in the second-quarter of 2023 to $6.7 billion as of March 31.

To play devil’s advocate, Apple’s falling sales in those regions may have more to do with pricing than hype for the product.

Maestri noted that Apple has introduced several financing solutions and trade-in programs that “reduce the affordability threshold,” so that customers can buy in the top product range.

“That is very valuable for us in developed markets, but particularly in emerging markets where the affordability issues are more pronounced,” said Maestri.

Still, pointing to the beacon of hope that could be emerging markets may not be enough to settle down investors. China is Apple’s third-largest market, and it’s become a battleground of steep competition with domestic companies like Oppo and Xiaomi dominating the market. According to Counterpoint Research, Huwaei has has seen a massive swing in the country after being completely sidelined by U.S. sanctions. The firm’s phone sales increased almost 70% from the previous year, while Apple’s fell 19%. In September 2023, Beijing imposed bans on the iPhone for government officials in the workplace, echoing U.S. action against Huawei.

China and emerging markets aren’t the only downers on Apple’s balance sheet this quarter. The company also reported a 10% drop in iPhone sales across all markets. Apple’s slow adoption of AI versus competitors like Google and Microsoft have also potentially played a role in slowed down iPhone sales.

Despite unimpressive hardware figures, Apple still managed to beat Wall Street expectations. It also summoned a stock hike of more than 10% in after-hours trading, fueled by both an increase on services revenue and a massive $110 billion stock buyback — a jump over last year’s $90 billion purchase.

Investors on the call tried to get Maestri and Apple CEO Tim Cook to divulge some more details about its upcoming generative AI launches, which Apple has teased over the last few months, but the executives would only reveal that announcements were imminent.

We’ll be keeping our eyes out for Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference for more news.

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