Apple Inc. looks like it’s having a not-so Merry Christmas.
Analysts lowered iPhone X shipment projections for the first quarter of next year, citing signs of lackluster demand at the end of the holiday shopping season, and the company’s shares fell Tuesday along with those of some suppliers.
Sinolink Securities Co. analyst Zhang Bin said in a report Monday that handset shipments in the period may be as low as 35 million, or 10 million fewer than he previously estimated. “After the first wave of demand has been fulfilled, the market now worries that the high price of the iPhone X may weaken demand in the first quarter,” Zhang wrote.
JL Warren Capital LLC said shipments will drop to 25 million units in the first quarter of 2018 from 30 million units in the fourth quarter, citing reduced orders at some Apple suppliers. The drop reflects “weak demand because of the iPhone X’s high price point and a lack of interesting innovations,” the New York-based research firm said in note to clients Friday.
“Bad news here is that highly publicized and promoted X did not boost the global demand for iPhone X,” according to the note.
Still, the iPhone X is only one part of Apple’s smartphone strategy heading into the new year. The company also recently released the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus at lower prices than the iPhone X, which could mean that a portion of consumers are opting for the other models, according to Cowen & Co. The firm said that Apple didn’t add enough new technology into the iPhone X to justify a $999 price tag. Apple also sells the even less expensive iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7 lines, which could also be filling in the gap left by the more expensive model.
Apple has projected revenue of $84 billion to $87 billion in the holiday quarter, which would represent growth of as much as 11 percent from the period a year earlier. Analysts estimate sales of $86.2 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Given that the iPhone represents about two-thirds of Apple’s sales, the company’s forecast indicates that it’s expecting iPhone growth. Analysts also project almost 30 percent year-over-year revenue growth for Apple’s fiscal second quarter, which suggests that iPhone sales won’t slow down for months into 2018.
The stock was down more than 2.5 percent to close at $170.57 on Tuesday. US-based suppliers like Lumentum Holdings Inc., Cirrus Logic Inc., and Broadcom Ltd. also tumbled.
Apple has been counting on a redesigned 10th anniversary iPhone to boost shipments as its market value advances toward $1 trillion. The Cupertino, Calif., company is facing new challenges from Samsung Electronics Co., which is quickly recovering from the Galaxy Note 7’s recall after fires. In the meantime, Chinese brands such as Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi are also luring away potential customers in China and other emerging markets such as India.
Apple is said to have trimmed its first-quarter sales forecast to 30 million units from 50 million, Taiwanese newspaper Economic Daily News reported, citing unidentified supply chain officials. It also said Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.’s main iPhone X manufacturing hub in Zhengzhou, China, stopped recruiting workers. The company also known as Foxconn is the sole iPhone X assembler, and also makes the handsets in Shenzhen and Chengdu.
Shares of Asian suppliers, such as Lens Technology Co., Shenzhen Desay Battery Technology Co., and Largan Precision Co. fell Monday on the report. Lens recovered some of the losses on Tuesday, while Largan continued to slide. Shenzhen Desay was little changed.
Hon Hai shares slid for a second day Tuesday, on track for the lowest close since March. Touch screen maker General Interface Solution Holding Ltd. plunged 8.4 percent Tuesday after slipping slightly Monday.
An Apple representative declined to comment on production arrangements. Foxconn said in an e-mailed statement that company policy prevents it from commenting on such matters.
Apple received a rare downgrade last week from Nomura Instinet analyst Jeffrey Kvaal, who said iPhone X sales as well as other positive factors are already baked into the stock price. He lowered his rating to “neutral” from “buy.”
The stock had soared 51 percent this year through Dec. 22, bringing its market value to almost $900 billion.
Apple’s efforts to increase iPhone X production in recent months have made supply and demand fairly balanced at the moment, said Jia Mo, an analyst at Canalys in Shanghai.
“The market will still hold high expectations for Apple’s 2018 products if Apple introduces more devices with iPhone X’s key features to cover a wider price range,” he said.
New features such as facial recognition and virtual reality herald Apple’s vision for future smartphones, but other issues such as the lack of augmented-reality apps have cooled buyer interest in those technologies.