SAN FRANCISCO – Apple’s slowing sales are rippling through a supplier network that has long benefited from the company’s ability to churn out iPhones and iPads.
Cirrus Logic Inc., a maker of audio chips that gets 91 percent of its sales from Apple, this week reported an inventory glut that suggested slowing iPhone sales, and forecast fiscal first-quarter revenue below analysts’ estimates. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Apple’s top supplier, this month posted its biggest revenue decline in at least 13 years, indicating slower sales of smartphones, tablets and computers.
Apple’s breakneck growth to $156.5 billion in revenue last year, from $24.6 billion in 2007 when the iPhone debuted, supports an ecosystem of at least 247 suppliers across the globe. They relied on Apple to deliver $30.1 billion in orders in the latest reported quarter, according to supply-chain data compiled by Bloomberg. Now, many are now vulnerable after building up inventory in anticipation of continued growth, according to Michael Hasler, a lecturer at the University of Texas in Austin.
“This is the downside of that really positive story of being an Apple supplier,” said Hasler, a former supply-chain executive at Applied Materials Inc. “Your fortune is directly linked to Apple. Until recently, that hasn’t been a bad thing.”
Following the Cirrus report, Apple’s stock fell 5.5 percent to $402.80, the lowest level since December 2011. The decline underscores concern among investors about Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook’s plans for future products in an industry crowded with rivals. The iPhone, Apple’s biggest source of revenue and profit, is in a smartphone market that’s becoming saturated, while devices such as the iPad mini have a narrower profit margin than do other Apple products.
Apple stock is down 34 percent from September’s record high, erasing half of a rally that began in 2009 as iPhone sales took off, following the 2008 global financial crisis that had slowed economic growth.
Among the 86 CEOs in the S&P 100 who have been in their jobs at least a year, Cook has led the 10th-worst performance relative to the index over the course of his tenure, with Apple lagging behind by 13 percentage points, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Rankings as of Wednesday’s close.
Apple may not introduce a new product until its developers conference, usually held in June, and the stock may slump further unless the company meets the high end of analysts’ profit and revenue projections when it reports earnings next week, according to Andy Hargreaves, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities.
Shares of Jabil Circuit Inc., Broadcom Corp. and Flextronics International Ltd. dropped Wednesday after Cirrus said it will record a net inventory reserve of $23.3 million for the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended in March. Most of that is from a high-vsolume product from one buyer, Cirrus said, without naming the customer.
Cook has cautioned investors before not to use isolated reports about a supplier to make broader assessments about Apple’s financial health.