Analysts Dispute Supply Chain Conclusions of iPad Production Cuts
Earlier today, a report from JPMorgan analysts made headlines for its claim that Apple has slashed its fourth quarter iPad production plans by 25%, sparking speculation and rumors that Apple may be planning a price cut amid weakening demand.
The Wall Street Journal notes, however, that several analysts have already spoken out against the conclusion, arguing that a single supply chain data point is insufficient to warrant such drastic production cut predictions. From Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster:
We also note that previous calls based on sell-in or supply chain data have, for the most part, proven to have very little correlation with Apple’s results vs. consensus dating back to early iPod shipments (2003). We believe Apple purposely maintains enough suppliers and manufacturing partners to make any one supply-side data point inconclusive.
Analysts also note that Apple appears to have actually accelerated production and bumped up third quarter orders to stockpile iPads heading into the holiday shopping season. Sources also indicate that Apple is likely to begin production of the iPad 3 at the end of the fourth quarter or early in 2012 and may be accelerating production now in order to ease that transition.
Apple struggled with the transition from iPad to iPad 2 production earlier this year, with weak sales coming in the first quarter of this year as Apple scaled down production of the original iPad and was unable to meet heavy initial demand for the iPad 2. From Susquehanna analyst Chris Caso:
We believe chatter regarding iPad production cuts are misleading – we have seen pull-ins, not cuts. We have noted recent comments by competitors discussing iPad production cuts for 4Q. Our recently published AAPL supply-chain checks noted a sequential decline in 4Q iPad builds from 17 mln-19 mln units in 3Q to 11 mln-13 mln units in 4Q. However, the 4Q sequential decline was accompanied by an increase in 3Q builds, leading us to conclude that production was likely pulled-in from 4Q to 3Q.
Some have suggested that the fourth quarter production cuts may be due to Apple shifting some production to Brazil by the end of the year, although most of Apple's Asian component suppliers would be expected to be serving that production channel in addition to the existing Chinese channel.
Apple's stock dropped as much 3% earlier today as the initial report circulated, but has since rebounded and is currently down only about 1.25%.