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Apple suppliers boost Taiwan tech sales by 9.3% in November

Headwinds seen as iPhone X demand may soften early in 2018

An iPhone X is seen on a large video screen in the new Apple Visitor Center in Cupertino, California.   © Reuters

TAIPEI -- Apple suppliers continued to lead sales by major Taiwanese tech companies in November, as the combined revenue of 19 companies on the Nikkei Asian Review's watch list grew year-on-year for the 12th consecutive month.

For November, overall sales of the 19 tech companies monitored by NAR rose more than 9.34% year-over-year to a record 1.21 trillion New Taiwan dollars ($40.47 billion), the highest for a single month since January 2013, when listed companies in Taiwan began to adopt the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

But some market watchers say softer-than-expected demand for the iPhone X could have a negative impact on the supply chain ahead. 

"Even though the iPhone X just went on sale in early November, demand for the super-expensive handset has turned out to be weaker than expected," said Arthur Liao, analyst at Taipei-based Fubon Securities. "Consumers are a bit reluctant to pay for the fancy features, such as Face ID, which is only nice to have at the moment."

Liao said iPhone component makers and assemblers should brace for adjustments early next year.

As some component makers have grappled with production issues in the past few months, the real revenue contribution from new iPhone orders for most suppliers has been delayed by about two months, according to Rick Hsu, analyst at Daiwa Capital Markets.

Hsu echoed Liao's view that growth momentum, especially on the component side, would not likely last into early 2018, and many suppliers could see revenue drop month-over-month in December.

Meanwhile, eight of nine Apple suppliers on the NAR watchlist reported growth in sales from a year ago. The nine generated NT$1.02 trillion in revenue, up more than 13% from the year-ago period.

Revenue of sole iPhone X assembler, Hon Hai Precision Industry, known as Foxconn Technology Group, surged 18.5% to a record NT$569.59 billion in November, as most production issues had been resolved.

Apple's touch module provider, TPK Holding, which also supplies parts for the iPhone X, reported an increase of 48% in sales from a year ago.

Maker of the iPad and the Apple Watch, Compal Electronics, earned 32.6% more revenue from a year ago in November.

Key Macbook manufacturer Quanta Computer saw revenue increase by 2.34% year-over-year, though sales dropped from October.

Sale by Catcher Technology, a provider of metal casing and metal frames to Apple, jumped more than 35% from a year ago, but slowed from October.

Largan Precision, a maker of the iPhone lens, saw sales go up 7.84% from a year ago in November. But Largan warned that sales had already peaked for 2017, and will generate lower revenue in the current month.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., sole supplier of Apple's core processor chips for the entire iPhone range, saw sales expand 0.13% on year in November.

The world's largest contract chipmaker also expects revenue to see a month-over-month drop in December.

Hon Hai's smaller peer, Pegatron, which mainly assembles the iPhone 8, saw revenue decline 3.19% in November.

Despite the robust monthly revenue report, foreign investors began taking profits and adjusted positions in key Apple suppliers. Hon Hai became the main target for selloffs over the two weeks since Nov. 20, according to the Taiwan Stock Exchange.

The key iPhone assembler has lost more than 16% of its market value since the beginning of November.

Other solid performers on NAR's list are Nanya Technology, a major provider of dynamic random access memory chips, Advantech, the world's leading industrial PC maker, and Delta Electronics, a leading power-supply component provider. These companies generated 43.19%, 10.64% and 9.28% more revenue from a year ago, respectively, in November.

Nikkei staff writer Chien Chia-Hung contributed to this report.

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