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HomeMarketApple iPhone Sales Forecasts Keep Sliding as Foxconn Production Remains Muted

Apple iPhone Sales Forecasts Keep Sliding as Foxconn Production Remains Muted

Estimates for Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models keep falling.

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Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Slowly but surely, Wall Street is tamping down expectations for
Apple
‘s December quarter iPhone sales. Investors are grappling with just how low the bottom is, whether sales are being lost or simply delayed—and how much the global macroeconomic downturn will affect demand.

Monday brought the latest flurry of commentary from the Street on the December outlook, with estimates for iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models continuing to fall in the face of ongoing Covid-related production issues at the Foxconn assembly plant in Zhengzhou, China.

Apple (ticker: AAPL) warned last month that Covid-related restrictions in China were impairing operations in Zhengzhou. Street estimates for December quarter iPhone shipments have been sliding from the 90 million range to between 70 and 80 million, or in some cases even lower. Street consensus as tracked by
FactSet
sits at 81 million units, with iPhone sales of $70.5 billion, which would be about 1.5% lower than a year ago. Both figures seem stale—and too high.

On Monday, Oppenheimer analyst Martin Yang reduced his forecast for the quarter to 76 million iPhones, down from a previous estimate of 82.5 million. In connection with that call, he trimmed his EPS forecast for the September 2023 fiscal year to $6.12 a share, down from $6.46 and below the consensus as tracked by FactSet at $6.21 a share. He writes that his revised model assumes that five million iPhone unit sales are lost in the near-term, given unmet holiday demand. Yang keeps his Outperform rating, but reduced his target on Apple shares to $170 from $190.

Barclays analyst Tim Long points out in a new research note that Apple’s China-based suppliers saw November revenue—they all report monthly—19% below seasonal trends, due to both the Covid-related issues in Zhengzhou, but also signs of “waning demand.” Long thinks the Street estimates for both units and Apple revenue for the December quarter remain too high.

Long says that the utilization rate in Zhengzhou reached 30% last week, up from 20% at the end of November. He estimates that utilization at the plant could reach 50% by late December, but that operations aren’t likely to return to normal levels before late January at the earliest. He adds that there is “uncertainty” around the shift of production to other China-based contract manufacturers such as Pegatron and Luxshare, neither of which has any experience with Pro model iPhones. He thinks qualification will take one to two quarters.

Long says that Foxconn utilization isn’t ramping back up at the rate the Street had hoped, and he notes that he’s seeing signs of “lackluster” sell-through data in China, with year-over-year declines in the 20% to 50% range lately.

Apple stock on Monday was up fractionally at $142.32.

Write to Eric J. Savitz at eric.savitz@barrons.com

Credit: marketwatch.com

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