AT&T Says iPhone Sales Stable Despite Talk of Shortages
Published on: 22nd April 2008
NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- While AT&T says it has plenty of Apple iPhones in stock, there has been increasing chatter over shortages and shoppers' inability to find the combined smartphone-media player.
This leads many to speculate that Apple is restraining the supply ahead of the possible release of its newer, third-generation version. Indeed, bloggers, analysts and industry observers alike have expressed the belief - or perhaps just hope - that one is forthcoming.
AT&T, for its part, declined to comment.
"I don't think it's the right thing for me to comment on," Chief Financial Officer Rick Lindner said in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires.
Sales of iPhones have been stable in the first quarter, he said. While some AT&T stores have had temporary shortages, there remains plenty in its inventory. He declined to comment on the inventory level at Apple.
But iPhone supply levels remain fairly lean, according to American Technology analyst Shaw Wu. It's consistent with Apple's tendency to wind down inventory ahead of an update, he said in a note.
Others, however, don't believe the shortages are all part of Apple's master plan.
"One has to believe that Apple didn't plan on such a long period of out-of-stock current-generation iPhones during the transition phase," said Tavis McCourt, an analyst at Morgan Keegan.
An Apple spokesman wasn't immediately available for comment. The company previously said it was working to replenish supplies at its U.S. stores.
In addition to Apple, McCourt noted, supply issues with Palm and Research in Motion are also popping up and have been attributed to product-transition issues.
The iPhone was the linchpin of AT&T's rebranding strategy a year ago. The wireless business was making the transition to the more traditional AT&T name from Cingular Wireless, which many still considered hipper than the stodgy AT&T name. But the carrier was able to shed those old perceptions by linking itself to the ultra-trendy iPhone.
In the most recent quarter, AT&T was fairly silent on the iPhone's impact, with Lindner only mentioning it once during an analyst conference call, and then just to answer a question. It still remains vital to growth - more than 40% of customers who buy the iPhone are new to AT&T.
It also props up the average monthly revenue per user, with iPhone customers paying in the upper-$90s range. The overall average revenue per user in the first quarter ticked up 2% to $50.18.
Lindner said there were few developments with the iPhone in the recent quarter, which was why he didn't talk about it much.
"The trends continue to be stable," he said.
Apple will report fiscal second-quarter results after the closing bell late Wednesday. Its shares were recently trading down $8.80, or 5.2%, to $159.36.
AT&T shares were recently trading up 29 cents, or 0.8%, to $37.88.
-By Roger Cheng, Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-2020; firstname.lastname@example.org
(Ben Charny contributed to this report.)
(END) Dow Jones Newswires