How Apple's New iPhone Models Could Affect Semiconductor Players - Market Realist

 
How Apple's New iPhone Models Could Affect Semiconductor Players - Market Realist
How Apple’s New iPhone Models Could Affect
Semiconductor Players

By Paige Tanner
S ep 21, 2018. 09:04 PM

How Apple’s New iPhone Models Could Affect Semiconductor
Players

Chip stock performances in 2018

Things have been slow for the semiconductor industry in 2018 after rapid growth in 2017. The
Market Vectors Semiconductor ETF (SMH) rose 36.5% in 2017 and only 8.6% in the first nine
months of 2018. Stocks like Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and Qualcomm (QC OM), which
underperformed in 2017, are gaining momentum in 2018 as they revive their business and come
out as strong competitors. In contrast, stocks like Micron Technology (MU), Intel (INTC ), and
Broadcom (AVGO), which delivered strong returns in 2017, are seeing a slump in 2018.

Impact of Apple’s new iPhones on chip stocks

The launch event of Apple’s (AAP L) new iP hone models on September 12 resulted in some

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positive movement in semiconductor stocks. Between September 12 and 14, 2018, most Apple
supplier stocks rose, but C irrus Logic (C RUS) fell 3% as the iP hone maker discontinued all iP hones
with headphone jacks. C irrus Logic supplies lightning-to-headphone jack adapters for iP hones.

Some of the beneficiaries from Apple’s new iP hones were Qorvo (QRVO), Skyworks (SWKS),
Micron, and Broadcom. These stocks rose 3% or more between September 12 and 14.

Intel’s stock has been growing since the Apple event on September 12, 2018, as the iP hone
maker ditched Qualcomm’s modem for Intel’s modem. LG Display (LP L) and TSMC (TSM) also
benefitted from Apple’s new iP hones, but other factors did not play well for them.

Apple suppliers

Apple’s assembly and foundry partners who benefit from iP hone shipment volumes were
concerned that the high price of the new models would impact the shipment volumes. Even
though Apple launched two iP hone models above $999, it launched one cheaper iP hone XR priced
at $749, which is expected to drive volumes.

Apple’s component suppliers like Micron Technology, which supplies memory chips, would benefit
from increasing content per phone. In this series, we will see how Apple’s new iP hones could
impact semiconductor suppliers’ Q4 2018 earnings.

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Apple’s New iPhones to Boost Intel’s Mobile Revenue in H2 2018

Intel’s mobile business

Intel (INTC ), a leader in the P C and server processor market, entered the mobile market in 2011
with the acquisition of Infineon Wireless. Infineon products lagged behind in technology, which
pushed Intel behind Qualcomm (QC OM) in the modem market. After spending a huge sum on
research and development and divesting its mobile processor business, Intel launched competitive
modems that were one year behind Qualcomm in terms of technology.

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Intel’s collaboration with Apple

The breakthrough for Intel’s mobile business came in 2016 when Apple (AAP L) selected Intel as
the secondary modem supplier after Qualcomm. Intel supplied modems for GSM (global system
for mobile communication) versions of Apple’s iP hone 7 and 7P lus, which launched in 2016, and
iP hone 8 and iP hone X models, which launched in 2017. Intel’s share was smaller with Qualcomm
bagging the majority of orders.

However, an ongoing licensing dispute between Apple and Qualcomm saw the iP hone maker ditch
Qualcomm’s modem chips completely in 2018. In the fiscal Q3 2018 earnings call, Qualcomm
stated that it would lose Apple’s modem business to a rival. Intel is believed to be the sole modem
supplier for the new iP hones.

Moreover, Apple has discontinued its iP hone SE and 6S models, making the iP hone 7 its entry-
level phone. This move could help Intel increase its share in the modem market as the iP hone 7
was the first iP hone to use Intel’s modems. However, some iP hone 7 and 8 models would still use
Qualcomm modems.

Impact of Apple’s iPhones on Intel’s earnings

Intel reports its mobile business in C C G (client computing group), which is subdivided into the
platform, which includes sales of P C processors, and adjacent products, which includes sales of
mobile products.

Intel’s revenue from adjacent products rose 60% sequentially in fiscal Q3 2016 when it secured
orders for some of Apples iP hone modems. As Intel takes up a greater share of Apple’s modem
orders, this revenue is expected to increase 15% YoY to around $840 million in fiscal Q3 2018 and

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$1 billion in fiscal Q4 2018.

Next, we will look at LG Display and Qorvo.

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LG Display and Qorvo to Benefit from 2018 iPhone Models

Two companies to benefit from 2018 iPhone models

Apple (AAP L) made several changes to its iP hone suppliers in 2018. It completely ditched its long-
term modem supplier Qualcomm for Intel (INTC ) due to licensing disputes with the former. Apple
also selected alternate suppliers for displays and PAD filters for its cheaper variant iP hone XR. The
handset maker selected these suppliers to get a better price and ensure supply.

LG Display and Apple

In 2017, Samsung (SSNLF) was the sole supplier of OLED (organic light emitting diodes) displays
used in Apple’s iP hone X. Samsung, which owns 95% of the OLED market, was the only company
to test Apple’s stringent quality tests.

The Korea Herald reported that in 2018 Apple would source flexible OLED displays from two
suppliers, Samsung Display and LG Display (LP L). LG Display would supply OLED screens for
iP hone XS and XS Max. It would start volume production at its two manufacturing facilities to
meet the order volume from Apple. However, sources stated that LG is struggling to meet

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Apple’s large orders. It is not known how Apple will split the order of OLED displays between the
two companies, but reports claim that LG could initially manufacture 2 million to 5 million screens.

Qorvo and Apple

Apple has displaced Broadcom (AVGO) with Qorvo (QRVO) to supply PAD filter RF (radio
frequency) chips for its cheaper variant, the iP hone XR. According to Instinet analyst Romit Shah,
Apple chose Qorvo due to cheaper components to reduce production costs, so that it can offer
iP hone XR at a cheaper price without impacting its margins.

Romit Shah expects Apple to save $100 million in component costs by changing suppliers. This
switch could mean that Broadcom loses $400 million in revenue, while Qorvo could gain $300
million in revenue in H2 2018.

Next, we will look at the impact of Apple iP hones on Broadcom.

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Apple to Drive Broadcom’s Wireless Revenue in H2 2018

Broadcom and Apple

Apple (AAP L) selected Qorvo (QRVO) as the secondary PAD filter supplier after Broadcom
(AVGO), its largest supplier. Broadcom supplied eight components for Apple’s 2017 iP hone models
including Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity, wireless charging, and RFFE (radio frequency front end).

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In its fiscal 2017 filing, Broadcom stated that Apple accounted for over 20% of its fiscal 2017
revenue, up from ~15% in fiscal 2016. Broadcom reports its revenue from Apple in its Wireless
C ommunications segment, which contributes about 30% towards the chip maker’s revenue. Its
wireless segment is largely dependent on Apple, as is visible from the above graph.

Impact of Apple’s iPhones on Broadcom’s wireless revenue

Broadcom’s wireless revenue rose 40% and 23% sequentially in Q4 2017 and Q1 2018, as it
supplied components to Apple. However, this growth vanished and the segment’s revenue
returned to pre-Apple order levels in Q2 2018 when Apple cut iP hone production.

In its fiscal Q3 earnings call, Broadcom’s chief executive, Hock Tan, stated that the company’s
wireless revenue is expected to grow 25% sequentially to $1.61 billion in fiscal Q4 2018 due to
orders from a North American customer. This customer is Apple. He gave a similar outlook of mid-
20% for wireless revenue in Q3 2017, and the segment reported 40% sequential growth in Q4
2017.

Broadcom competes with Qorvo for Apple’s orders

However, the growth might not be that strong this year, as Broadcom’s Q4 2018 wireless
revenue represents a 10% decline on a YoY (year-over-year) basis. This weakness comes as the
company lost PAD filter orders for the cheaper iP hone XR to Qorvo. According to Instinet analyst
Romit Shah, the lost orders would reduce Broadcom’s revenue from Apple by ~$400 million.
Broadcom on an average earns slightly above $1 billion in revenue from Apple.

This brings us to the question of why the lost orders are so substantial. We’ll discuss this in the
next part of the series.

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Apple’s Strategy behind Selecting Qorvo as a Secondary Supplier

Broadcom’s take on lost orders from Apple

Broadcom (AVGO) lost low-band PAD filter orders for Apple’s (AAP L) iP hone XR to Qorvo (QRVO).
Instinet analyst Romit Shah stated that this could cost Broadcom $400 million in revenue from
Apple.

This brings us to the question of why the lost orders are so substantial. We’ll discuss this in the
next part of the series. Suppliers expect that iP hone XR would generate higher shipment volumes
due to the features it offers at a lower price point of $749. According to TrendForce, iP hone XR
would account for 50% of the total new iP hones Apple produces.

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At the fiscal Q3 2018 earnings call, in response to questions about the lost orders, Broadcom’s
chief executive officer, Hock Tan, stated that sometimes its customers do not upgrade and use
the old technology in their new models to reduce costs.

Why did Apple select Qorvo as the secondary supplier?

This change in supplier shows that Apple is differentiating its higher-end iP hone XS Max and XS
based on wireless performance. Its cheaper iP hone XR supports 2×2 MIMO (multiple-input and
multiple-output) antennas, whereas the premier versions support 4×4 MIMO antennas.

Apple is aggressively pricing P hone XR to increase its iP hone unit shipments, which were affected
in 2017 by the high price of iP hone X. To lower the price of iP hone XR, Apple has to reduce the cost
of production. Therefore, it did not opt for major hardware upgrades and is using the same
solutions that are now available at a cheaper price.

While this strategy benefits Apple, it adversely impacts Broadcom’s wireless business.

The road ahead for Broadcom’s Wireless segment

However, Hock Tan is confident that it will win back Apple’s lost orders in future iP hone

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generations. He expects Apple will resume annual platform upgrades in its 2019 iP hone models.
He expects Broadcom’s wireless revenue to decline in fiscal 2019 and then return to double-digit
growth in fiscal 2020 when the market transitions to 5G. Next, we will look at other Apple suppliers
Skyworks and C irrus Logic.

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Apple Influences Revenue for Skyworks and Cirrus Logic

Suppliers with large exposure to Apple

In the earlier parts of the series, we saw how orders from Apple (AAP L) would impact large
semiconductor companies that have limited exposure to the iP hone maker. However, there are
some suppliers that depend heavily on Apple for their earnings. Among them are C irrus Logic
(C RUS), which earned 81% of its fiscal 2018 revenue from Apple, and Skyworks (SWKS), which
earned 40% of its revenue from Apple in fiscal 2017.

Heavy dependence on a single customer is not healthy for a company. If the customer faces a
weak business environment or if it decides to switch to another supplier, it could significantly
impact the company’s revenue.

Cirrus Logic and Apple

C irrus Logic supplies high-quality sound technology like codecs and amplifiers for all Apple
products. Even Apple relies heavily on C irrus Logic to differentiate its products in terms of sound
performance.

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In 2018, Apple removed the $9 lightning-to-headphone jack adapters to its new iP hones. The
company also removed these jack adapters from the older iP hone 7 and iP hone 8. This move sent
C irrus Logic’s stock down 13% between September 6 and 19, 2018.

C irrus Logic will continue to supply sound technology for other Apple products, but this iP hone
design change comes as a big blow, as iP hone accounts for 60% of its revenue. The chip supplier
expects its revenue to fall by 22.5% YoY (year-over-year) in the fourth quarter.

Skyworks

While C irrus Logic did not diversify its customer base, Skyworks did. Skyworks supplies power-
amplifier chips that help Apple’s iP hones transmit data at higher speeds. But the declining iP hone
shipments encouraged the chip maker to diversify its customer base beyond Apple to Samsung
(SSNLF), Huawei, and other smartphone giants. It also diversified into the adjacent market of IoT
(Internet of Things).

While it is risky to have high exposure to one customer, it has its own benefits. For instance,
Skyworks expects its revenue to increase 11% to 13% sequentially to above $1 billion in the
fourth quarter of 2018 driven by orders from Apple.

Next, we will look at Apple’s memory supplier, Micron.

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Memory Prices Now a Tailwind for Apple and a Headwind for Micron

Apple and memory chips

Memory is a key differentiator in Apple’s (AAP L) iP hones. The iP hone XS Max comes in three
variants: 64 GB (gigabyte), 256 GB, and 512 GB, which are priced at $1,099, $1,249, and $1,449,
respectively. Memory prices have a significant impact on device manufacturers, as memory is a
key component of all electronic devices. Over the last two years, memory prices have been rising,
which has negatively impacted Apple’s margins.

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Memory prices present a tailwind for Apple

However, things are reversing in Q2 2018. At the fiscal Q3 2018 earnings call, Apple’s chief
financial officer, Luca Maestri, stated that memory prices have started to decline and they could
fall further in the coming months.

According to DRAMeXchange, NAND and DRAM prices fell 37% and 16%, respectively, in H1
2018. DRAMeXchange expects NAND and DRAM prices to fall 10% and 2%–5% sequentially in Q4
2018, which would turn memory from a headwind to a tailwind and likely improve Apple’s margins
in the coming quarters.

While this is good news for Apple and other electronics manufacturers like Huawei and Dell, it is
bad news for Micron Technology (MU), Samsung (SSNLF), and SK Hynix, which supply memory to
these manufacturers.

Impact of Apple’s iPhones on Micron’s earnings

Micron earns 22% of its revenue from the mobile market where it caters to several C hinese
handset makers and Apple. Micron’s Mobile business revenue experiences its seasonal peak in
fiscal Q1, which ends December 1, due to orders from Apple.

In the past ten quarters, Micron’s Mobile business benefitted from higher memory prices,
increasing memory content per device, and a diversified customer base. Thus, the segment’s
revenue did not fall even when Apple cut its iP hone production in the fiscal 2018 third quarter. For

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the fiscal 2019 first quarter, we expect Micron’s mobile business growth to slow, as the increasing
demand for memory is partially offset by declines in memory prices. Next, we will look at Apple’s
foundry partner, TSMC .

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Pros and Cons of Apple’s and TSMC’s Interdependence

Apple and TSMC

So far in this series, we’ve looked at Apple’s (AAP L) component suppliers. Apple is manufacturing
its A12 processors that would power its 2018 iP hone models on TSMC ’s (TSM) 7-nm (nanometer)
node. TSMC is Apple’s sole foundry partner and has exposure to Apple in areas other than the
A12 processors. For instance, it manufactures modems Intel (INTC ) designed for use in iP hones.

2018 started strong for TSMC , as it witnessed strong demand for NVIDIA’s GP Us (graphics
processing units) and Bitmain’s and C anaan C reative’s ASIC s (application-specific integrated
circuits) due to the crypto boom. As the crypto boom ended, the iP hone seasonal sales picked up,
offsetting crypto declines.

Apple exposed to TSMC’s troubles

TSMC started volume production on its new 7-nm (nanometer) node in H2 2018 but it suffered
from a computer virus outbreak at the start of August 2018, which impacted its production for
four days. The foundry stated that the virus outbreak could lead to delays in product shipments
and reduce its fiscal Q3 2018 revenue by $255 million. However, the company could recover this
loss in fiscal Q4.

TSMC is the sole supplier of Apple’s A12 processors, and the shipments of these processors will
likely be delayed as the virus outbreak impacted the foundry’s production. However, it is difficult

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to quantify the impact.

Apple has delayed the launch of its cheaper variant iP hone XR by more than a month. Suppliers
expect iP hone XR to account for 50% of the total new iP hone models produced in Q4 2018. Some
analysts believe that the delay is due to software issues in the Liquid Retina LC D (liquid
crystal display). TSMC ’s outbreak could also be one of the reasons for the delay.

Next, we’ll see how iP hones could impact TSMC ’s earnings in H2 2018.

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Impact of Apple’s New iPhones on TSMC’s Fiscal H2 2018 Revenue

Estimated iPhone shipments for Q4 2018

The production of TSMC (TSM), Apple’s (AAP L) sole foundry, was affected for four days due to a
computer virus outbreak. This could probably be one of the reasons for a one-month delay in the
launch of iP hone XR. DigiTimes, citing Apple supply chain sources, stated that shipments of new
iP hones are expected to hit 70 million to 75 million units by the end of 2018, its highest since the
iP hone 6 launch in 2014.

Apple is not the only beneficiary of TSMC’s 7-nm node

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Apple’s A12 processors are the first 7-nm (nanometer) processors to launch commercially.
However, Apple is not the only company building 7-nm chips. TSMC could also use its 7-nm
process node to manufacture products for Apple’s competitors like Kirin 980 chipsets for Huawei’s
Mate 20 flagship series scheduled to launch in October 2018 and Qualcomm’s (QC OM)
Snapdragon 855 SoC (system on chip) scheduled to launch in early 2019.

TSMC could also use its 7-nm node to manufacture Advanced Micro Devices’ (AMD) Vega
graphics processing units scheduled to launch by the end of 2018. The foundry expects 7 nm to
contribute 20%, or $7 billion, towards its fiscal 2018 revenue.

Apple’s move to Intel’s modem

On one hand, TSMC would benefit from higher iP hone shipments, but on the other hand, it would
lose Intel’s (INTC ) order to produce iP hone modems. Intel would manufacture its new XMM 7560
modem for the new iP hones in-house on its 14-nm process node. However, TSMC would continue
to manufacture Intel’s older version modems used in iP hone 7 and iP hone 8.

Impact of Apple’s iPhones on TSMC’s revenue

Based on the above factors, TSMC ’s revenue is expected to rise 5.1% sequentially but fall 0.9%
YoY (year-over-year) to $8.25 billion in fiscal Q3 2018 as virus outbreak is expected to eat up $225
million in the quarter’s revenue. For fiscal Q4 2018, its revenue is expected to rise 24%
sequentially and 11% YoY to $10.25 billion due to high shipment volumes and the $225 million
recovery revenue from the previous quarter.

Next, we will look at the impact of new iP hones on Apple’s competitor and supplier Samsung.

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Apple’s Supplier Strategy Impacts Samsung

Samsung and Apple

Apple (AAP L) has exposure to Samsung (SSNLF) on various fronts. The two compete with each
other in the smartphone market. Samsung also has a strong foothold in the semiconductor
market with exposure to the foundry business, memory chips, and OLED (organic light emitting
diodes) displays. Samsung owns 95% of the OLED market.

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As Apple is one of the major consumers of semiconductors, Samsung is also a supplier to Apple.
While increasing demand for Apple’s iP hones negatively impacts Samsung’s mobile business, it
benefits Samsung’s Semiconductor and Display businesses. However, the supplier changes Apple
made in 2018 are not in Samsung’s favor.

Modem

The Samsung Foundry manufactures Qualcomm’s (QC OM) modems used in iP hone 7, 8, and X.
However, Apple ditched Qualcomm modems in favor of Intel’s (INTC ) modems in 2018.
Qualcomm could still supply modems for the older iP hone generations, but this switch in modem
suppliers would reduce Samsung Foundry’s revenue.

Display

On the display front, Samsung was a big beneficiary in 2017 when Apple adopted OLED displays
in its iP hone X. Samsung Display was Apple’s sole OLED display supplier. However, Apple selected
LG Display (LP L) as its secondary OLED display supplier to get competitive prices and ensure
supply.

It is not known how Apple would divide the display orders between Samsung Display and LG
Display. Thus, it’s difficult to quantify the impact on Samsung Display.

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Memory

On the memory front, Samsung benefitted in 2017 as memory prices were high. However, things
have reversed, and memory prices are declining. The declining memory prices could be partially
offset by increasing memory content per device.

Next, we will look at Qualcomm, which is no longer a supplier for Apple’s new iP hones, but is still
impacted by the handset maker.

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Apple’s 2018 iPhones Add to Qualcomm’s Headwinds

Qualcomm and Apple

Apple’s (AAP L) 2018 iP hones had a positive impact on some suppliers and a negative impact on
others. One such supplier is Qualcomm (QC OM), which licenses its 4G technology and
supplies modem baseband chips for 95% of the world’s smartphones. The company ran into
trouble with Apple over a licensing dispute in January 2017.

This legal dispute spread globally and took the shape of patent infringement. Amid this dispute,
Apple withheld royalty payments, which sent Qualcomm’s quarterly revenue down by $1 billion in
fiscal Q3 2017, which ended June 24, 2017.

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P lus, Qualcomm’s chief financial officer, George Davis, stated that Apple had chosen its
competitor as the sole modem supplier for 2018 iP hone models. This competitor is Intel (INTC ).
However, Qualcomm will still supply modems for the older generation iP hone models.

Impact of Apple’s new iPhones on Qualcomm’s earnings

Given the above changes, Qualcomm expects its revenue to fall 15% YoY (year-over-year) and
9% sequentially to $5.1 billion in Q4 2018. It expects its fiscal 2018 revenue to fall 5.7% YoY due
to the loss of the Apple account.

Patent disputes

Qualcomm’s and Apple’s disputes are aggravating. Qualcomm has reached out to the ITC
(International Trade C ommission) to ban imports of certain iP hone models including the iP hones 7
and 8 in the US due to patent infringements.

Defending itself, Apple stated that banning iP hones would negatively impact US consumers and
hinder competition and new technology development. It stated that the premium baseband chip
market drives innovation and is important for upcoming 5G data transmission standards.
Qualcomm and Intel are the only two premium baseband chip makers, and banning one
chipmaker would give another one a monopoly.

Qualcomm stated that the patents under question are not related to data transmission and would
not impact 5G standards. Moreover, Intel and Apple can still sell the iP hones under question in
markets outside the US.

The ITC ’s final ruling is expected to be issued by May 22, 2019. The two companies will likely once
again work together in the future if the disputes are resolved.

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