Jan 29, 2020

China looms large in Apple's earnings report amid coronavirus outbreak

Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

China figured prominently throughout Apple's earnings report on Tuesday, helping fuel the company's record holiday quarter, but also playing a role in the uncertainty hanging over the current quarter.

Why it matters: Apple is the latest company to flag that China's coronavirus outbreak could harm near-term business.

  • A year after weakness in Greater China prompted a rare earnings warning, Apple returned to growth in the region. The company said it saw double-digit growth in sales of the iPhone and in its services and wearables businesses.

Yes, but: China was also the source of caution throughout Apple's conference call on Tuesday. Specifically, CEO Tim Cook noted that:

  • The company's $63 billion to $67 billion revenue outlook for the current quarter, though better than some analysts had forecast, had a wider range due to uncertainty over the impact of the coronavirus.
  • Apple has closed one of its stores in China, while third-party retailers have closed some distribution points and reduced the operating hours at others. Also, traffic is down at retail stores outside Wuhan.
  • Some suppliers are based around Wuhan, thought to be ground zero for the outbreak, though Apple said it had other sources for all the components it gets there. The impact on suppliers outside of Wuhan is less clear.
  • Factories in China are starting back up later than normal following the Lunar New Year holiday, Cook said, with production due to resume Feb. 10.
  • Apple has limited travel of its employees to China to "business critical" situations. But Apple, of course, has a lot of critical business in China, since nearly all its hardware is manufactured there.

The bottom line: It's too soon to say how great the human impact of the outbreak will be, but it's already a major source of economic risk.

Go deeper: The Fed confronts the coronavirus risk

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Apple shares surge after it posts record holiday sales

Photo: Apple

Buoyed by strong iPhone sales and a growing services business, Apple reported record quarterly revenue and profits that were well ahead of estimates and its own forecasts. Apple also projected revenue for the current quarter ahead of many analysts' expectations, sending shares higher.

Why it matters: The October-to-December quarter includes the all-important holiday shopping season, and Apple's results show the resiliency of its business.

Go deeperArrowJan 28, 2020

Apple will miss quarterly earnings estimates due to coronavirus

Apple CEO Tim Cook

Apple issued a rare earnings warning on Monday, saying it would not meet quarterly revenue expectations due to the impact of the coronavirus, which will limit iPhone production and limit product demand in China.

Why it matters: Lots of companies rely on China for production, but unlike most U.S. tech companies, Apple also gets a significant chunk of its revenue from sales in China.

Starbucks, Apple shutter stores in China amid coronavirus crisis

Photo: An Apple employee wears a protective mask in an Apple Store showroom on Feb. 1 in Beijing, China. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Starbucks, Apple and McDonalds are among the American companies temporarily shuttering stores throughout China as the coronavirus affects thousands within the country.

The state of play: Apple announced Saturday that it is closing all 42 retail stores in China, as well as corporate offices and contact centers through Feb. 9, the Financial Times reports. The company said it hopes to reopen stores "as soon as possible."

Go deeperArrowFeb 1, 2020 - Health