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A woman wearing a face mask walks past an image of an iPhone 13 Pro at an Apple Store in Beijing on September 24. The new iPhone series has been met with strong demand, but supply shortages have made it difficult for Apple to keep up. Photo: Reuters

Apple’s supply crunch delivers US$6 billion blow amid strong iPhone 13 sales

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook estimated that supply shortages have cost the company about US$6 billion in the quarter ended September
  • iPhone sales surged 47 per cent to US$38.9 billion, despite the latest model being little changed from last year, but still fell below expectations

Apple’s iPhone sales soared yet again in the past quarter, but did not grow as rapidly as analysts anticipated because of supply shortages that have made it more difficult to meet the demand for a wide range of products.

Until recently, the supply shortages that have curtailed production of everything from automobiles to video game consoles have not been a major problem for Apple. Although the company’s quarterly results released on Thursday served as evidence of its products’ continuing success, they also showed Apple is not immune to the supply headaches.

The company earned US$20.6 billion, or US$1.24 per share, during the July-September period, a 62 per cent increase from the same time last year. Revenue climbed 29 per cent from the same time last year to US$83.4 billion.

Chinese consumers rush to order cheaper iPhone 13, clogging websites

While the earnings matched the estimates of Wall Street analysts that sway investors, the revenue fell below analyst projections of roughly US$85 billion for the quarter, according to FactSet Research.

In a conference call with analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook estimated supply shortages cost the company about US$6 billion in sales during the quarter. The company’s chief financial officer, Luca Maestri, warned sales will be hurt even more during the current quarter that covers the pivotal holiday shopping season.

That sobering reality likely was the main reason that Apple’s stock price declined by more than 3 per cent in extended trading after the numbers came out.

“It’s not a demand issue but a supply issue that continues to be the elephant in the room for Apple,” Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives wrote in a research note.

As usual, the iPhone remained Apple’s financial engine, with sales of the device rising 47 per cent from last year to US$38.9 billion for the quarter. But analysts had predicted iPhone sales of roughly US$41 billion for the quarter.


iPhone 13 release sparks buying frenzy in China

iPhone 13 release sparks buying frenzy in China

The period marked the end of Apple’s fiscal year – a stretch in which iPhone sales totalled US$192 billion, by far the biggest volume recorded by the company since the device’s debut in 2007.

Apple’s previous iPhone record came in fiscal 2018, when sales of the device totalled US$165 billion.

The gains posted in the latest quarter were skewed by supply shortages that caused the release of last year’s model, the iPhone 12, to be delayed until October and November instead of Apple’s usual late-September timeline.

This year’s new model, the iPhone 13, came out September 24, helping the Cupertino, California-based company ring up more sales of the device in the latest quarter.

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The big numbers suggest there may be strong consumer interest in the iPhone 13, even though the model isn’t dramatically different from last year’s model.

Apple had been able to largely avoid major decreases in iPhone production, with Cook previously indicating that the supply shortages have primarily affected the company’s Mac laptops and iPads. Cook acknowledged the chip shortage is now preventing Apple from selling as many iPhones as it would like.

“Demand remains very robust,” he emphasised.

With the supply shortage extending into the holiday shopping season, one of the big wild cards will be how many consumers will be willing to tell their family and friends to hold off on getting an iPhone or other Apple product until next year. If enough people do that, it would just be a matter of Apple making a sale the January-March period instead of the current quarter.

Although Cook said he believes that will happen with some of the potential sales that weren’t made in the past quarter, he also acknowledged that holiday shopping season poses a “perishable” opportunity to peddle some products.

Edward Jones analyst Logan Purk predicts that interest in iPhones remains so strong, some gift givers will hand out the equivalent of IOUs assuring recipients that they will get a new model when the product is available, even if it’s well after the holidays.

“The Apple ecosystem remains strong,” Purk said.