Coronavirus threatens Apple supply chain, sales; shares drop

(Reuters) - Shares of Apple Inc AAPL.O fell 2 % on Tuesday and dragged the stocks of its suppliers across the globe lower, after the iPhone maker warned of lower sales in the current quarter acknowledging that the coronavirus outbreak was pressuring its supply chain.

The drop in Apple’s stock is set to wipe nearly $30 billion off its market capitalization, just as it was inching closer to $1.5 trillion in value. The stock was trading down at $318.74.

However, several Wall Street brokerages dubbed Apple’s update forecast as a “near-term headwind,” saying the company is performing strongly outside China and the launch of 5G phones later this year would further boost sales.

“We believe any material weakness in Apple shares as a result of the March 20 quarter revenue shortfall will prove to be a buying opportunity,” analysts at Piper Sandler wrote in a client note.

“The iPhone supply constraints in the current quarter could result in pent-up demand for future quarters,” they said.

In late January, Apple had forecast $63 billion to $67 billion in revenue for the quarter ending in March. It did not provide a new revenue estimate or a profit forecast on Monday.

Venture capital firm Loup Ventures expects March quarter revenue to be in the range of between $58 billion and $60 billion, with a 12% contribution from Greater China.

Manufacturing plants in China that produce Apple’s iPhone and other electronics have begun to reopen, but they are ramping up more slowly than expected, Apple said on Monday. That will mean fewer iPhones available for sale.

One of the primary iPhone manufacturing facilities in China is operating at a 25% factory utilization rate as many workers remain absent, Cowen analysts estimated.

“We believe utilization rates will improve linearly over the next several weeks to ~50% by mid-March and followed by a big improvement in late March to normal levels.”

Brokerage Canaccord Genuity expects Apple to sell 38 million iPhone units during the current quarter, eight million less from its earlier estimate.

Shares of Apple suppliers Taiwan Semiconductor Co Ltd TSM.N, Qualcomm Inc QCOM.O, Intel Corp INTC.O, Broadcom Inc AVGO.O, Texas Instruments Inc TXN.O, Micron Technology Inc MU.O, Microchip Technology Inc MCHP.O and Qorvo Inc QRVO.O, fell between 1% to 3% in premarket trading.

Shares of European chipmakers STMicroelectronics NV STM.MI and Dialog Semiconductor DLGS.DE were down in the low single digits and Asian supplier Foxconn Technology Co Ltd 2354.TW was down marginally.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil and Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr