Wells Fargo: iPhone shipments up in March, down for year

Aaron Rakers charts the Chinese tea leaves all the Apple analysts have been reading.

From a note to clients that landed on my desktop Saturday:

Late this week China exports for the month of March were published, in which total mobile phone (wireless handset) exports declined 8% y/y, but increased 46% m/m. For total 1Q19, exports declined 19% y/y and 43.5% q/q (vs. 5-year average 1Q seq. decline of 36%; -33% q/q in 1Q18). This compares to a 4% y/y decline in exports during the December quarter.

As shown below, we have found a high historical correlation with Apple’s iPhone shipments, excluding China. If we were to apply this historical correlation for 1Q19, we would be left to estimate implied iPhone shipment (ex-China) to decline in the mid-to-high 20% range y/y, or implying the low- 30 million range. Coupled with our below analysis of internal China, we would be left to estimate C1Q19 iPhone ship in the high-30M to 40M range vs. our estimate of ~44M units (street: 43M units).

Cue the charts:

wells fargo iphone china

wells fargo iphone china

Click to enlarge.

Maintains Market Perform rating and $160 price target ($40 under water). 

My take: Still counting iPhone units.


  1. Robert Paul Leitao said:


    Handheld wireless telephone exports is likely an industrial classification or export classification for which comparable historical information is available. As the analyst states, they have found a “high correlation with Apple’s iPhone shipments, excluding China.”

    I wouldn’t dismiss the data. Apple is guiding to a revenue decline YOY in the March quarter. What has become tedious are models that value the company based primarily or almost exclusively on highly cyclical iPhone unit sales.

    April 14, 2019
    • David Emery said:

      I think both of these comments are on-point!

      April 14, 2019
  2. Fred Stein said:

    Yes counting iPhones is like finger paintings on refrigerators of parents of small kids.

    Tracking iPhone installed base as in active accounts might be interesting.

    April 14, 2019

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