November 13, 2018 / 2:39 AM / a month ago

Fears of peak iPhone rattle Asian Apple suppliers

TAIPEI/SEOUL (Reuters) - Shares in Asian suppliers and assemblers for Apple Inc (AAPL.O) fell on Tuesday after several component makers warned of weaker than expected results, leading some market watchers to call the peak for iPhones in several key markets.

Following a poor forecast earlier this month, analysts and investors voiced concern over the state of Apple’s business, contributing to growing worries that iPhone sales were stagnating and could hurt suppliers.

Fresh warnings on Monday from screen maker Japan Display Inc (6740.T), British chipmaker IQE Plc (IQE.L) and Lumentum Holdings Inc (LITE.O), the main supplier of the Face ID technology in the latest generation of iPhones, hurt technology stocks in Asia on Tuesday.

Taiwan-based assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (Foxconn) (2317.TW) dropped more than 3 percent. Rival Pegatron Corp (4938.TW) fell more than 5 percent but later recouped losses. Both companies count Apple as a major customer.

The world's largest contract chipmaker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (2330.TW), fell 2.6 percent, while Flexium Interconnect Inc (6269.TW) was down 1.5 percent. The Taiwan Weighted Index .TWII was down around 1.6 percent.

“Apple’s iPhone weakness has been a long-term issue for the Asia supply chain,” said Arthur Liao, an analyst at Fubon Research in Taipei.

FILE PHOTO: A woman checks her phone at a flagship Apple store at Iconsiam shopping mall in Bankok, Thailand November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

“For Apple, the iPhone shipment has reached its peak. For tech suppliers facing the future, they have no other big client like Apple.”

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant’s shares fell to their lowest level in more than three months on Monday.

Last week a media report saying the iPhone maker had told its smartphone assemblers to halt plans for additional production lines dedicated to its new lower-priced iPhone XR had pressured supplier stocks.

Analysts said the lack of technological breakthroughs had put a cap on demand, which would persist in the coming quarters.

“With no new technology in sight next year for the supply chain, this is not ideal for the companies involved,” said Nicole Tu, a Taipei-based analyst at Yuanta Investment Consulting.

“Up through the first half of 2019 we likely won’t see any breakthrough.”

FILE PHOTO: People handle the new Apple iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max during a media tour at an Apple office in Shanghai, China, September 21, 2018. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

Lumentum on Monday slashed its profit and revenue forecast for the current quarter, while IQE warned that current-year results would be lower. Japan Display lowered both sales and margin outlook for the year as well.

NO CONFIDENCE

Apple warned earlier this month that holiday sales would miss Wall Street expectations due to weakness in emerging markets including India and foreign-exchange costs.

Among other Apple suppliers in Asia, Hong Kong-based acoustic components maker AAC Technologies Holdings Inc (2018.HK) slumped more than 6 percent.

South Korean electronic parts suppliers Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co Ltd (009150.KS), Apple’s supplier of multi-layer ceramic capacitors, dropped more than 5 percent, while LG Innotek Co Ltd (011070.KS) plunged 9.5 percent.

Apple said earlier this month it would stop giving the number of iPhones, iPads and Mac computers it sold in a quarter, a closely watched metric and a key indicator of the company’s success.

The move led analysts to question the company’s business and its share price has since dropped 12.6 percent.

“(This) indicates that the company itself is not confident about its performance at the moment,” said Park Jung-hoon, a fund manager at HDC Asset Management, which owns Samsung Electronics shares.

“Although Apple has positioned itself as a super-expensive handset maker providing high-end products, its strategy has not been working in emerging markets including China and India as Chinese vendors have been making iPhone-like products,” he said.

Reporting by Jess Macy Yu in Taipei and Heekyong Yang in Seoul; Additional reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Stephen Coates

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