(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Apple Inc. investors looking for any ray of hope may have found it in Taiwan.
Shares of Apple have fallen more than a quarter since October on concern that iPhone sales are slowing, a prospect that’s been exacerbated by the threat of U.S. tariffs on devices made in China.
Revenue at the two main assemblers of iPhones showed growth that may surprise bears. Across a collection of Taiwanese suppliers, including component makers, November sales climbed 9.3 percent from a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. Taiwan requires companies to report revenue monthly, giving the market unique mid-quarter insight into the hardware supply chain.
At Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the flagship of Foxconn Technology Group, combined October and November sales grew 12.9 percent, while Pegatron Corp. posted a 25 percent uptick. Hon Hai is now on track to post its strongest annual revenue growth since 2012.
Caution is warranted when looking at the figures, though. Foxconn’s smaller subsidiary, Foxconn Technology Co. (not to be confused with Foxconn Group), saw sales plunge 42 percent for the two-month period. Foxconn Tech mostly makes casings and assembles some components, but doesn’t do final iPhone production. Pegatron not only makes iPhones, but does some casings and other manufacturing. Hon Hai, via its fully consolidated subsidiaries, does a mix of all of these.
Another caveat is that iPhone XR, Apple’s lower-priced model, didn’t hit shelves until late October, a month after the premium XS and XS Max versions. This skews October and November production figures, and thus revenue at suppliers. By early November, Apple was telling both Hon Hai and Pegatron to ease up on XR production because of weak demand, Nikkei reported at the time.
Investors might interpret this data as breathing new life into the Apple story. Or it could be the final grunts of a tiring giant.
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Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. He previously covered technology for Bloomberg News.
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