As in all other things economic and financial, in the end it all comes down to “what does this mean for Apple (AAPL)?”
In case you slept through the last 24 hours, Apple on Wednesday unveiled its newest device, the iPhone 6S. Everywhere else everyone else is oohing and aahing or booing and baaing over the latest product launch.
But the Wall Street Journal goes after a topic more near and dear to Asia Unhedged’s heart, China’s currency.
So, while the devaluation of the yuan has broad implications for China’s economy, the world economy, and global stock and bond markets, the Wall Street Journal cuts to the meat of the matter by looking at how devaluing the yuan affects Apple’s revenues.
The Greater China region is Apple’s largest market outside of the Americas. Most of these customers use the recently devalued yuan as currency. But Apple pays its suppliers in dollars, so it was assumed that the company would pass its increased costs onto the Chinese consumer by raising the price of the new phone.
Apple gave the iPhone 6S the same price as last year’s incarnation, the iPhone 6, which was 5288 yuan for a 16GB version. Last year, 5288 yuan converted to $861. However, today, after the devaluation, the exchange rate brings in only $829, a $32 difference.
Being conservative, the WSJ decided to use a $16 difference, as that was how much the price dropped on Aug. 11, the day the yuan was first allowed to float.
In the quarter after the iPhone 6 launched, the fourth quarter of 2014, Apple sold 13.2 million devices in China, said market research firm IDC. So, assuming Apple sells 13.2 million new phones worth $16 less in the next quarter, that would be a $210 million difference.
This equals more than 1% of Apple’s fourth-quarter sales in Greater China last year. If the yuan weakens more, that number increases. And it has already. As of today, the price difference would be $32 a piece, or $420 million in total, more than 2% of Greater China’s revenues.
“Someone will have to take that loss, but it’s not clear whether it’s Apple,” wrote WSJ.
Apple may have been hedged against currency risk, in which case the victims are futures traders. Or, Apple may pass the cost onto suppliers. The Journal’s sources said Apple hasn’t yet demanded that contracts be renegotiated. Apple declined to comment.