From a note to clients by analyst Samik Chatterjee that landed on my desktop Friday:
- Our iPhone Supplier Tracker decelerated further in December, and marked the first y/y decline since November 2016. Aggregate revenues for the suppliers in our tracker declined by -4% y/y in December (vs. +9% in November, and +17% in October), marking the first y/y decline since November 2016.
- Quarterly supplier revenue trend decelerates as well in C4Q18; points to continued iPhone revenue decline in C1Q19. On a quarterly basis, our iPhone Supplier Tracker decelerated to +7% y/y in C4Q18 from +17% in C3Q18. The strong historical correlation between our iPhone Supplier Tracker and iPhone revenue growth (see Figure 3) leads us to conclude that the deceleration in supplier revenue growth points to continued iPhone revenue declines in C1Q19 (F2Q).
- 2019 iPhone models unlikely to involve major upgrades; 2020 refresh could drive AR/VR leadership. Based on latest feedback from the Apple supply chain, we believe 2019 iPhone models are unlikely to involve significant upgrades, except for OLED/LCD models moving to triple/dual camera configurations. While still uncertain, we now believe the adoption of world-facing 3D sensing is less likely in 2019. In 2020, we expect a more material refresh, including adoption of world-facing 3D sensing, substantially greater support for AR/VR applications, inclusion of 5G modems, and a material change on display/casing form factor.
- The most frequent question from investors is relative to state of the China smartphone market and Apple’s position in it. Following recent announcements from Apple and Samsung, the most frequent investor question we have received is relative to the state of the China smartphone market. Our latest checks indicate the smartphone market in China could be down as much as -20% y/y in C4Q18, which would imply that although Apple is losing share due to a combination of increased competitiveness of local brands and negative sentiment on US companies, share loss is unlikely the primary driver of the weakness for Apple in China.
Maintains Overweight rating and $228 price target.
J.P. Morgan’s methodology: Our monthly tracker aggregates revenue from the most relevant Taiwanese Suppliers with meaningful exposure to Apple, such as Catcher, Genius, Hon Hai, Largan, Pegatron, TPK, Win Semi and Wistron.
My take: Not clear to me how Chatterjee untangles the iPhone supply chain decline from the broader smartphone slowdown.