Jan 2, 2019

Apple issues rare earnings warning, citing China woes

Apple CEO Tim Cook. Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Apple warned Wednesday that revenue from its holiday quarter will fall short of prior estimates, a rare occurrence for the iPhone maker.

Why it matters: Apple is one of the world's biggest companies and a significant driver of the tech economy. The company said it now expects revenue of around $84 billion, down from a prior estimate of between $89 billion and $93 billion.

Shares fall: Apple's stock tumbled once after-hours trading resumed after a brief halt. Shares changed hands recently at $146.10, down $11.82 or nearly 7.5%.

In a letter to investors, CEO Tim Cook blamed slow iPhone sales in China for the shortfall.

"While we anticipated some challenges in key emerging markets, we did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China," Cook said. "In fact, most of our revenue shortfall to our guidance, and over 100 percent of our year-over-year worldwide revenue decline, occurred in Greater China across iPhone, Mac and iPad."

Cook added that the trade war between the U.S. and China exacerbated the weakening economy there, and that he hasn't seen any signs Apple has been targeted by the Chinese government.

The context: There had been hints of weak iPhone demand for weeks, with a number of reports of suppliers and contract manufacturers cutting production plans. Yet similar reports have also appeared after strong launch quarters, too.

  • Outside of the iPhone and China, Apple said its business was strong. Cook said Apple's non-iPhone businesses (aka services, Mac, iPad, wearables and accessories) up 19% year-over-year. However, the iPhone is the biggest driver of Apple's sales and profits.

Thought bubble, via tech editor Scott Rosenberg: Apple's warning, while rare and a temporary shock to its shares, is probably more alarming for the wider world, since Apple's visibility into what is actually happening in China is likely to be more reliable than more official info on the state of Chinese economy. In other words, this could be worse news for China — and the world economy — than for Apple specifically.

Go deeper

Coronavirus spreads to more countries, and South Korea ups its case count

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus continues to spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting those are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the U.S. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 on Friday to 433 on Saturday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel, Lebanon and Iran.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 19 mins ago - Health

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."

Situational awareness

Warren Buffett. Photo: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Warren Buffett releases annual letter, reassures investors about future of Berkshire Hathaway
  2. Greyhound bars immigration sweeps
  3. U.S. military officially stops offensive operations in Afghanistan
  4. America's future looks a lot like Nevada
  5. Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins