Apple in China: Apple Falls, Is China Mobile to Blame?

Apple Inc (AAPL)Apple in China: As we discussed after the market closed yesterday (see Why Are Apple Shares Sinking?), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) lost over 6% on the day. While the selloff has been attributed to a variety of factors, there are several that stand out of the crowd.

Let’s start by doubling back on our story yesterday, more specifically the statement made by Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster regarding questionable data in a recent DigiTimes article:

“A DigiTimes article from today suggests that iPhone 5 is selling well based on comments from wireless chipset providers and seems to suggest upside to the Street’s 43-45 million estimate for December […] In the same article, DigiTimes is suggesting a 20% q/q decline in Apple’s demand for parts and components in March. We believe this 20% decline is to be expected coming off of a launch quarter and do not believe it is an indication of how units might trend in March.”

While there is no denying the importance of Munster’s note to investors, a story from earlier today brings new light to the recent decline.

China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE:CHL) Chief Executive Officer Li Yue has publicly stated that he has no plans to add Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iPhone to the largest wireless network in the world — more than 703 million subscribers — unless the deal is beneficial for his company.

At the present time, the iPhone is not available to the majority of people in China. This is due in large part to the inability for Apple to reach an agreement with China Mobile. Complicating matters even further is the fact that the iPhone is made available by the two smaller carriers in the country: China Telecom Corporation Limited (NYSE:CHA) and China Unicom Limited (NYSE:CHU). As early as next week, both companies will begin selling AAPL’s iPhone 5.

While China Telecom and China Unicom both have growing subscriber bases, China Mobile holds an approximate 60-70% of the country’s mobile telecom market, making it the proverbial “big fish,” that can be quite a catch for the Cupertino-based tech giant.

With all this in mind, though, there is still hope for the future. At a conference yesterday, Li stated, “the business model and benefit sharing still need further discussion.” Thus, it appears that the telecom’s CEO is still very open to negotiating a partnership with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL).

For a more detailed interpretation, we don’t have to look any further than Teck-Zhung Wong, an analyst with IDC, who has shared that “Li’s comment suggests that China Mobile has no intention of simply gifting Apple access to its huge subscriber base without extracting a pound of flesh from Apple.” In other words, China Mobile has something that Apple wants – access to the largest network in the world. With this in mind, it is easy to see that Li is in the driver’s seat for the time being.

Could this situation come back to haunt Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and investors again in the future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Check back here for more updates on Apple in China.

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