HONG KONG — As China adjusts to what President Xi Jinping calls a “new normal” of more modest economic growth, U.S. tech giant Apple may be undergoing a similar transition, at least for now.
The company has endured an unpleasant few weeks. Its stock has dropped 14 percent since July 20, when it announced third-quarter earnings that failed to live up to Wall Street's high expectations. It has also endured three five-day losing streaks in the past month, raising the specter of 2012, when its stock price crumbled from $100 to $55 over seven months.
There are multiple concerns driving Apple's current stock correction. Some investors believe that the company's new Watch has not lived up to expectations; others that it had failed to meet admittedly high targets for iPhone sales. Many analysts seem to agree, however, that the extent to which the company is intertwined with a China that is experiencing an economic slowdown will hamper its ability to deliver the kind of phenomenal growth it has seen in recent years.
Concern about China's economic performance has peaked in recent weeks, as the stock market has seen significant drops, and the government's attempts at intervention appear to have succeeded in exposing regulatory disarray. The country had already been experiencing a slowdown as it sought to transition away from polluting manufacturing industries.
China is a key market for Apple and one that has allowed the company to deliver some spectacular results in recent months. Its first-quarter 2015 results showed a 40 percent year-on-year jump in iPhone sales, and a 55 percent jump in revenue from those sales, driven strongly by demand in China.
Competition in the Chinese market, however, is heating up. Reports this week revealed that Apple had lost its place as the largest smartphone vendor in China, being overtaken local firms Xiaomi and Huawei, who hold 15.9 percent and 15.7 percent of China's smartphone market respectively, Fortune reported.
“If China is slowing, that's one of the bigger smartphone markets, it's probably going to be an issue because that's where Apple has opportunity to gain some share," Sherri Scribner of Deutsche Bank Research told CNBC.
“Apple's grown 40 percent this year probably, based on our estimates with the new phones. It's going to be very difficult for them to see that type of growth off of a 40 percent base considering how big they are," she added.