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Apple Delivers Blowout Q2 Results, Market Shrugs Off iPhone Delays

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By Reuters | Updated: 31 July 2020

Apple on Thursday delivered blowout quarterly results, reporting revenue gains across every category and in every geography as consumers working and learning from home during the COVID-19 pandemic turned to its products and services.

The report topped Wall Street expectations, with even long-overshadowed categories likeiPads and Macs getting a boost. Shares rose as much as 6 percent in extended trading after the results.

The fiscal third-quarter results, which included iPhone sales some $4 billion (roughly Rs. 29,900 crores) above analyst expectations, came on the same day that US gross domestic product collapsed at a 32.9 percent annualised rate last quarter, the nation’s worst economic performance since the Great Depression.

Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri also confirmed supply chain rumblings that the new lineup of iPhones, usually released in late September, would face delays of a few weeks.

But executives predicted continued strong performance from the company’s products.

Other major tech companies Amazon and Facebook also posted results that topped Wall Street targets, sending their shares up.

With 60 percent of sales coming from international markets, the Cupertino, California-based company posted iPhone revenues of $26.42 billion (roughly Rs. 1.97 lakh crores), $4 billion (roughly Rs. 29,900 crores) above analyst expectations, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

In an interview with Reuters, CEO Tim Cook said that after disruptions in April, sales began to pick back up in May and June, helped by what he called a “strong” launch for the $399 (Rs. 42,500 in India) iPhone SE introduced in April.

“I think the economic stimulus that was in place – and I’m not just focused on the US, but more broadly – was a help,” Cook told Reuters.

The continued growth in services and accessories also showed the durability of the company’s brand, which has prompted investors to view it as a comparative safe haven and pushed up share prices since March.

The company saw strong sales in its greater China region, where aggressive pricing during a June holiday shopping season and lower-priced iPhone SE model released in April helped boost sales 2 percent to $9.33 billion (roughly Rs. 69,762 crores).

“China remains a key ingredient in Apple’s recipe for success as we estimate roughly 20 percent of iPhone upgrades will be coming from this region over the coming year,” Daniel Ives of Wedbush Securities said in a note.

Apple also announced a 4-for-1 stock split, saying it wanted to keep shares accessible to a broad range of investors. Shares soared past $400 (roughly Rs. 29,900) for the first time Thursday, though they had been proportionally higher before a 7-for-1 split in 2014.

Apple’s fiscal third-quarter revenue and profits were $59.69 billion and $2.58 per share, compared with analyst expectations of $52.25 billion and $2.04 per share.

Sales in its services segment, which also includes offerings such as iCloud and Apple Music, rose 14.8 percent to $13.16 billion (roughly Rs. 98,394 crores), compared with and analyst expectations of $13.18 billion (roughly Rs. 98,543 crores). Cook told Reuters that Apple has 550 million paying subscribers on its platform, up from 515 in the previous quarter.

Sales in the wearables segment that includes the Apple Watch rose 16.7 percent to $6.45 billion (roughly Rs. 48,231 crores), compared with estimates of $6.0 billion (roughly Rs. 44,866 crores).

Apple did not give a fiscal fourth-quarter forecast.

Apple benefited from remote work and learning trends, reporting sales in its iPad and Mac segments of $6.58 billion (roughly Rs. 49,203 crores) and $7.08 billion (roughly Rs. 52,942 crores), which beat expectations of $4.88 billion (roughly Rs. 36,491 crores) and $6.06 billion (roughly Rs. 41,315 crores).

“Both had some really significant product announcements at the end of March, beginning of April,” Cook told Reuters. “You combine that with the work from home and remote learning, and it’s yielded really, really strong results.”

But the global smartphone market was already stagnating before the novel coronavirus caused it to contract, and Apple has leaned heavily into growing its services business, which is where the company’s fastest revenue growth occurred during the fiscal third quarter. The biggest component of that business is the App Store, where Apple generates commissions between 15 percent and 30 percent on some sales.

On Wednesday, Cook faced questions from US lawmakers about Apple’s practices related to the store, which have come under fire from independent app developers who say its rules and unpredictable approval process put them at a disadvantage against the iPhone maker.


© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Apple iPhone 13 Lineup Tipped to Feature Touch ID: Report

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By ANI | Updated: 20 January 2021

With news surrounding the Apple iPhone 13 picking up steam, one tipster has replied to a question talking about the return of Touch ID and his reply implies that the much-loved feature might be coming back to Apple iPhone this year.

While replying to Nikias Molina’s tweet, L0vetodream said that Touch ID will ”be back soon.” Since no other model on Apple’s has Touch ID apart from iPhone SE (2020), it’s obvious the tipster was referring to the upcoming Apple iPhone 13.

Unfortunately, that is about all he had written in his reply and had provided no other information, which is what should be expected, given the nature of his tweets. Apple is reported to be testing out in-display fingerprint readers on the iPhone 13.

It is also unknown whether all the four Apple iPhone 13 models will get the in-display Touch ID or if Apple is working something out differently for the lesser expensive versions. The iPad Air (4th-Gen) has Touch ID integrated into the power button; hence it would be interesting to see if the Apple iPhone 13 mini and Apple iPhone 13 will get treated to this or if Apple decides to go all out with in-display Touch ID.

Touch ID wasn’t considered a topic of interest since Apple removed the feature from its flagship iPhone lineup back in 2018. However, with devices like the 2020 Apple iPhone SE and the Apple iPad Air 4, the company is showing signs that it will continue to keep and improve the technology.

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Nokia Partners With Google to Build Cloud-Based 5G Network

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By Reuters | Updated: 15 January 2021

Nokia on Thursday partnered with Alphabet’s Google Cloud unit to build 5G core network infrastructure and allow business customers to offer services such as smart retail and automated manufacturing.

Cloud computing units of big technology companies such as Microsoft and Amazon are also tying up with telecoms vendors ahead of deployment of 5G infrastructure to corner a share in new businesses the new technology might enable.

While Nokia will bring its 5G expertise, Google Cloud will serve as the platform for launching applications and assist customers in building an ecosystem of services.

“We will start to see some of these things to get in the live environment by end of this year,” Amol Phadke, Managing Director at Google Cloud told Reuters.

He added that the timeline for the availability of the services would depend on telecom operators.

In October last year, Nokia chief executive Pekka Lundmark overhauled the Finnish company’s 5G strategy. Announcing a new strategy under which the company will have four business groups, Lundmark said Nokia would “do whatever it takes” to take the lead in 5G where it lags Swedish rival Ericsson and Chinese group Huawei.

“We expect to stabilise our financial performance in 2021 and deliver progressive improvement towards our long-term goal after that,” Lundmark said in a statement.

The company also cut its 2020 operating margin forecast to 9 percent from 9.5 percent and for 2021 expects operating margin of 7-10 percent.

JP Morgan analysts said higher research and development spending was likely to drive the margins lower than the consensus expectations of 10.9 percent for 2021. “Nokia is likely to find raising operating margins challenging due to its relatively low market share, Liberum analysts said in a note.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Xiaomi, 8 More Chinese Companies Blacklisted by US Government Over Alleged Military Links

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By Associated Press | Updated: 15 January 2021

The US government has blacklisted Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi and China’s third-largest national oil company for alleged military links, heaping pressure on Beijing in President Donald Trump’s last week in office.

The Department of Defense added nine companies to its list of Chinese companies with military links, including Xiaomi and state-owned plane manufacturer Commercial Aircraft of China (Comac).

US investors will have to divest their stakes in Chinese companies on the military list by November this year, according to an executive order signed by Trump in November.

Xiaomi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Xiaomi overtook Apple as the world’s No. 3 smartphone maker by sales in the third quarter of 2020, according to data by Gartner. Xiaomi’s market share has grown as Huawei’s sales have suffered after it was blacklisted by the US and its smartphones were cut off from essential services from Google.

Separately, the Commerce Department put China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) on the entity list, an economic blacklist that forbids US firms from exporting or transferring technology with the companies named unless permission has been obtained from the US government. The move comes after about 60 Chinese companies were added to the list in December, including drone maker DJI and semiconductor firm SMIC.

CNOOC has been involved in offshore drilling in the disputed waters South China Sea, where Beijing has overlapping territorial claims with other countries including Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Taiwan, and Malaysia.

“China’s reckless and belligerent actions in the South China Sea and its aggressive push to acquire sensitive intellectual property and technology for its militarisation efforts are a threat to US national security and the security of the international community,” US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

“CNOOC acts as a bully for the People’s Liberation Army to intimidate China’s neighbours, and the Chinese military continues to benefit from government civil-military fusion policies for malign purposes,” Ross said.

CNOOC did not immediately comment.

Chinese state-owned company Skyrizon was also added to the economic blacklist, for its push to “acquire and indigenise foreign military technologies,” Ross said.

Beijing Skyrizon Aviation, founded by tycoon Wang Jing, drew US criticism for an attempt to take over Ukraine’s military aircraft engine maker Motor Sich in 2017. The concern was that advanced aerospace technology would end up being used for military purposes.

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Qualcomm to Acquire Chip Startup Nuvia in $1.4 Billion Deal, Eyes Challenge to Apple, Intel

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By Reuters | Updated: 14 January 2021

Qualcomm on Wednesday said it will acquire Nuvia, a chip startup founded by Apple veterans, for $1.4 billion (roughly Rs. 10,240 crores), with plans to put the firm’s technology into its smartphone, laptop, and automotive processors.

The deal marks a big push by Qualcomm to reestablish a leading position in chip performance after several years of high-profile patent licensing litigation with rival Apple and regulatory authorities.

It also comes amid a change in the helm with Qualcomm announcing this month that Cristiano Amon, its current president and head of its silicon division, will replace outgoing CEO Steven Mollenkopf, effective June 30.

Founded by three of Apple’s former top semiconductor executives in charge of iPhone chips, Nuvia has been working on a custom CPU core design that it had said would be used in server chips.

Qualcomm, however, plans a broad use of Nuvia’s processors, saying they would power flagship smartphones, next-generation laptops, infotainment systems, and driver-assistance systems among other applications.

While laptop makers have traditionally turned to Intel for processors, Qualcomm has been supplying PC chips for several years to firms such as Samsung and Microsoft.

“It’s exciting to see Nuvia join the Qualcomm team,” Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, said in a statement on the deal. “Moving forward, we have an incredible opportunity to empower our customers across the Windows ecosystem.”

The deal is also significant because it could help lessen Qualcomm’s reliance on Arm, which is being purchased by Qualcomm rival Nvidia for $40 billion (roughly Rs. 2,93,570 crores) .

Most of Qualcomm’s current chips use computing cores licensed directly from Arm, while Nuvia’s cores use Arm’s underlying architecture but are custom designs. For Qualcomm, using more custom core designs – a move that Apple has also made – could lower some licensing costs to Arm in the short term and make it easier to move to a rival architecture in the longer term.

While Qualcomm and Apple have resolved disputes over Qualcomm’s patent royalties, Nuvia and Apple have been at loggerheads.

In 2019, Apple sued Nuvia’s Chief Executive Gerard Williams III, alleging Williams recruited Apple employees to Nuvia while he was still employed at Apple. Apple did not sue Nuvia itself, nor did it allege any intellectual property theft, and no trial date has been set.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Samsung Rides Remote Working, TV Watching-Fuelled Chip and Display Sales to Post Q4 Operating Profit

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 January 2021

Samsung shares jumped on Friday after it said its fourth quarter operating profit likely rose 26 percent as coronavirus pandemic driven remote working and TV-watching fuelled sales of chips and display panels.

Samsung Electronics shares rose as much as 8.6 percent in afternoon trade to a record high, compared to a 3.9 percent rise in the wider market, due to an earlier-than-expected rebound in memory chip prices, analysts said.

“DRAM chip prices appear to be turning around now, rather than later in the year as we expected,” said Song Myung-sup, analyst at HI Investment & Securities.

Samsung’s shares have risen about 67 percent since September, boosted by a global shortage of chips that has forced firms to scramble to secure production capacity from contract chip manufacturers, or foundries.

The KRW 9 trillion (roughly Rs. 60,400 crores) estimate provided by the South Korean tech giant for profit in the December quarter was in line with a KRW 9.1 trillion (roughly Rs. 61,000 crores) analyst forecast by Refinitiv SmartEstimate despite weaker smartphone sales, marketing costs and a strong won versus US the dollar.

That analyst forecast was trimmed back from KRW 9.5 trillion (roughly Rs. 63,750 crores) earlier in the week.

Samsung, the world’s biggest memory chip supplier and maker of smartphones, also said revenue likely rose 1.9 percent to KRW 61 trillion (roughly Rs. 4,09,350 crores).

The company provides only estimates of quarterly revenue and operating profit in its preliminary earnings release. Full earnings are due later this month.

“Work-from-home will become entrenched,” said Park Sung-soon, analyst at Cape Investment & Securities. “Samsung’s supply comments, and investments in non-memory chips, will be issues to watch out for when full results are announced.”

Park said analysts would be closely watching for an update on an earthquake in Taiwan last month that briefly stopped memory chip production at rival DRAM makers. While demand usually rises in response to a supply disruption, researcher TrendForce said the earthquake did not seem to have caused any tangible capacity losses.

Analysts expect Samsung to report a jump in memory chip shipments in the December quarter, compared with the prior quarter, offsetting lower prices.

Those prices will likely rebound in the current quarter, analysts said, as data centre customers return to buying chips, as well as demand from 5G smartphones, notebooks, graphics, and automotive.

South Korea expects semiconductor exports to rise more than 10 percent in 2021, as the pandemic encourages companies to add bandwidth for remote work and consumers to buy devices.

US memory chip peer Micron on Thursday forecast second-quarter revenue above Wall Street estimates.

Smartphone slump

On the flip side, Samsung likely recorded an estimated 17.5 percent drop in smartphone shipments in the December quarter compared to the previous quarter, Counterpoint Research said, due to a high base from brisk sales in the September quarter and competition from Apple’s new iPhone 12.

Samsung is expected to unveil its latest flagship smartphone next week. That would be earlier than in past years, a strategy Counterpoint said was likely aimed at filling the vacuum left by Huawei losing market share after US government regulations restricted supplies.

A strong won against the US dollar also dented profits. Samsung makes the bulk of its profits in dollars but reports in won.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Qualcomm Names Cristiano Amon as New CEO, to Replace Outgoing Steven Mollenkopf on June 30

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By Reuters | Updated: 6 January 2021

Qualcomm, the world’s biggest supplier of mobile phone chips, said on Tuesday it had named its president and chip division head Cristiano Amon as its new chief executive.

Amon, who has been with the San Diego-based company since 1995 and became president in 2018, will replace outgoing CEO Steven Mollenkopf, effective June 30.

In recent years Amon has overseen the company’s chip division, which supplies processors to most Android phones and modem chips that help Android devices and Apple’s iPhone models connect to wireless data networks.

A strong proponent of 5G, the new generation of faster wireless networks, he has led Qualcomm’s push to put 5G chips into low and mid-priced handsets. He has also guided the company’s expansion into new areas such as 5G infrastructure equipment, automotive computers, and personal computers.

“We have been at the forefront of innovation for decades and I look forward to maintaining this position going forward,” said the 50-year-old, a native of Brazil who restores vintage muscle cars in his spare time.

But Amon, who also played a role in Qualcomm’s licensing division as company president, will face some tough challenges as CEO, such as how to deal with Qualcomm’s heavy reliance on intellectual property from Arm for its processor chips.

Arm is in the middle of a $40 billion (roughly Rs. 2,93,600 crores) takeover by Nvidia, which has a brewing rivalry with Qualcomm in chips for artificial intelligence.

Amon could be forced to find a replacement for Arm’s intellectual property if Qualcomm concludes that depending on a competitor creates too much long-term risk.

Qualcomm has already started using more of its own intellectual property in chips for artificial intelligence and is using an Arm alternative called RISC-V in certain parts of its phone processors.

Qualcomm designs chips but outsources their manufacturing, largely to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing in Taiwan and Samsung in Korea. US lawmakers recently approved a programme to bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing. Amon said Qualcomm, which has huge sway with chip factories because of its sales volume, plans to retain its outsourcing strategy but would consider future US factories.

“We’re one of the few companies that actually have multi-sourcing on the leading node. And we expect to be that way,” he told reporters during a press conference. “We actually look very favorably on more foundry investment, including in the United States. That’s very good for Qualcomm and very good for the industry.”

The current CEO, Mollenkopf, is himself no stranger to challenges, having guided Qualcomm through three crises: A hostile takeover attempt by Broadcom, an antitrust challenge by the US Federal Trade Commission and a protracted legal battle with Apple.

Qualcomm prevailed in all three cases, and the 52-year-old, who has been with the company for 26 years, leaves with its shares riding at nearly three times their value during the depth of the crises.

“Steve navigated through unprecedented circumstances during his tenure, facing more in his seven years as CEO than most leaders face in their entire careers,” said Mark McLaughlin, chair of Qualcomm’s board.

Mollenkopf will remain with Qualcomm as an adviser for a period of time, the company said.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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