Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is focusing on lucrative smartphone markets in Asia with the release of its new iPhone models this year -- the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C -- and if the company were to crack deals with leading Asian carriers, such as China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) and Japan's NTT DoCoMo (NYSE:DCM) to launch the new iPhones by the end of 2013, it will likely provide a major boost to the company’s smartphone sales next year.
Both China Mobile and NTT DoCoMo will reportedly begin selling Apple’s new iPhones by the end of this year, and according to Chris Whitmore, an analyst with Deutsche Bank, potential agreements with the carriers will help Apple reach about 900 million mobile phone subscribers in the region, AppleInsider reported.
With more than 740 million customers, China Mobile’s 3G subscriber base is expected to grow to 160 million in 2014 from 138 million now. In addition, about 35 million unlocked “gray market” iPhone units are currently running on the China Mobile network, most of which, according to Whitmore, may be upgraded to subsidized iPhones once they are released to consumers.
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Apple is preparing to ship the iPhone 5C to China Mobile, suggesting that both companies might have reached an agreement after years of negotiations. The report also said that Apple had asked Foxconn (TPE:2354) to include China Mobile in its list of carriers that are slated to receive the iPhone 5C.
According to Whitmore, thanks to the potential deal, the new low-cost iPhone 5C may cover 12 percent of China Mobile’s 2014 3G subscriber base, which will help Apple sell about 25 million additional units of the so-called low-cost iPhone.
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Customers of Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, which currently has about 61 million subscribers, will most likely opt for the new iPhone 5S, Whitmore said.
Whitmore believes that selling an additional 10 million iPhone units in Japan in 2014 at an average price of $550 will add about $2 to Apple’s earnings per share, or EPS. On the other hand, iPhone sales though China Mobile may add about $3 to the company’s 2014 EPS.
Meanwhile, Apple investors are also bullish ahead of the highly expected iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C launch on Tuesday, hoping that the company will finally join hands with China Mobile, which is said to be the world’s largest wireless carrier.
In China, iPhones are currently sold through China Unicom and China Telecom (NYSE:CHA), which have a combined subscriber base of 266 million. According to reports, both companies could be the first Chinese carriers to launch the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C on Sept. 20 in the country.
“Apple is effectively only selling to half the Chinese market today,” Brian Colello, an analyst with Morningstar, told Reuters. “They can essentially double their sales in China quickly with China Mobile. So it's a big deal.”
However, Colello said that while many investors could have already bought the Apple stock hoping for a deal with China Mobile, they might sell off their stock holdings if the deal does not materialize in the near future.
The median estimate of the 12-month target share price for Apple, according to Thomson One, ranges from $530 to $825. The company's stock closed on Monday up 1.6 percent at $506.17.