An email from Tim Cook to “Mad Money” television host Jim Cramer helped save Apple nearly $80bn in its market value amid the China-induced slide on global stock exchanges on Monday.
After the company’s stock started the week 10 per cent down following a “Black Monday” for Chinese equities, Apple’s chief executive insisted in a rare intervention that consumer demand in Apple’s most important growth market remained “strong”.
The world’s most valuable company clawed back $78bn in market capitalisation it had lost earlier in the day.
“I get updates on our performance in China every day, including this morning, and I can tell you that we have continued to experience strong growth for our business in China through July and August,” Mr Cook told the CNBC presenter in an email.
“Growth in iPhone activations has actually accelerated over the past few weeks, and we have had the best performance of the year for the App Store in China during the last two weeks,” he added, in what he admitted was an unusual response to share-price movement outside of the company’s quarterly earnings reports.
Apple confirmed the remarks, which helped to nudge the company’s share price back above $106 and into positive territory for the day by midday in New York. The stock had opened below $100 for the first time since October.
By the close Apple shares were 2.47 per cent down at $103.15.
Other big tech stocks also pared some of their early losses during the course of the day. However, by the close of trading Netflix was down 6.8 per cent; Google was 4 per cent lower; Facebook was down 4.6 per cent; and Twitter was off 2.7 per cent.
This is the second time Mr Cook has tried to calm investor fears about the effect of China’s stock market gyrations. During July’s earnings call, he said that he remained “very bullish on China” and dismissed stock market volatility as a mere “speed bump”. “The stock market participation among Chinese households is fairly narrow,” he noted, constraining the impact on consumer spending.
However, until Monday, investors had seemed unconvinced, sending Apple’s stock price down more than 20 per cent in the past three months.
The company is betting that expansion of 4G networks in China and the expanding middle class will drive iPhone sales in the world’s largest mobile market. The country accounted for up to 30 per cent of all smartphone sales in the second quarter according to market research group Gartner, which added that Apple is continuing to gain share.
However, Gartner also warned that Chinese smartphone sales fell by 4 per cent, the first such decline in more than a year, as the global market saw its slowest growth since 2013.
Even bullish Wall Street analysts have conceded that the Chinese opportunity for Apple may be smaller than it had once hoped.
In a note to clients on Monday, analysts at FBR, who rate the stock “outperform”, conceded it had been a “miserable, dark period for Apple investors” since July’s results, with fears over slowing iPhone growth “running rampant”.
While FBR said it had given its China market forecast a “30 per cent haircut” ahead of the launch of Apple’s new iPhones in September, it said that the market remains a $100bn opportunity over the next three years.
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