Apple to launch iPhone in four Asian regions

The iPhone is seen inside the Apple Store in New York in this June 29, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

SAN FRANCISCO / SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Apple Inc AAPL.O has signed deals to bring the iPhone to four Asian countries later this year, which should help the company surpass its sales goal of 10 million units by the end of 2008.

Agreements with Singapore's Singapore Telecommunications Ltd STEL.SI and three of its affiliates will bring the iPhone to Singapore, India, the Philippines and Australia, SingTel and Apple said.

Bharti Airtel Ltd BRTI.BO, India's top mobile operator, will carry the iPhone in the world's fastest-growing wireless market, which already has more than 260 million mobile users. SingTel owns more than 30 percent of Bharti Airtel.

SingTel unit Optus will offer the iPhone in Australia, and Globe Telecom GLO.PS will be the Philippine partner. Globe Telecom is owned by SingTel and domestic conglomerate Ayala Corp AC.PS.

An Apple spokeswoman said the iPhone would make its debut in those countries “later this year,” and declined to comment on plans to bring the iPhone to Japan and China.

In its quarter ended March 31, the company sold 1.7 million of the devices, which combine a mobile phone, iPod media player and Web surfing; Apple’s goal is to sell 10 million iPhones by year’s end.

A flurry of deals with European partners last week prompted American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu to raise his profit estimates for Apple on Monday, saying he expected 2008 iPhone sales of 11 million units, up from his previous forecast of 7 million units.

“IPhone is a relatively minor contributor today at only 2-3 percent of revenue, but we believe it has the potential to become a very significant driver over the next 2-5 years,” Wu wrote.

Apple shares rose 2.6 percent to $188.22 by mid-afternoon on the Nasdaq. The stock has soared 50 percent over the past three months as investors regain confidence that Apple can sustain growth even amid a weakening economy.

Reporting by Scott Hillis in San Francisco and Jennifer Tan in Singapore, editing by Phil Berlowitz