The following commentary also appears on the Supply Chain Expert Community web site.
About a month ago,we penned a Supply Chain Expert Community commentary reflecting on how any sort of news, positive or negative, emulating from Apple’s supply chain, can directly impact a company’s stock valuation. That applies not only to Apple itself, but also its suppliers. The sheer scope and volume of Apple’s value-chain should cause any supplier to covet Apple’s business and volume scale. Where the phenomenon of a negative market valuation drop was once attributed to a major supply chain disruption or snafu, when it comes to Apple, it can be any negative news deemed significant by equity markets. Our readers are probably aware that both Apple and Samsung provide a rather unique industry relationship. While they each compete in the same markets for consumer electronics devices, Samsung has been a long-term key supplier of various supply components for Apple.
Thus, in yesterday’s financial media, are reports of the near $10 billion drop in the market valuation of Samsung, after a Taiwan based publication reported that Apple placed a rather large contract order for 12 inch DRAM chips with Japan based Elpida. As was noted in our late April commentary, Elpida, a DRAM chip competitor with Samsung and Hynix Semiconductor, among others, previously filed for bankruptcy protection, and has become a takeover candidate. We cited a Bloomberg Businessweek report characterizing Elpida as “the hottest takeover in tech”, because of the implications of changing the fundamental competitive dynamics of the DRAM market based on supply contracts with Apple.
A Reuter’s article reporting on the Samsung impact quotes an Asia based equity analyst indicating that the shift in supply contract implies that Apple does not want Samsung or Hynix to dominate this market segment. Reuters also reports that U.S. based Micron Technology Corp. are in talks to acquire Elpida, and the prize has just become more valuable.
In essence, Apple continues to practice smart supply management, insuring a competitive dynamic and balanced supply risk exists across its supplier base. In a March Expert Community commentary, we highlighted how Apple had sourced multiple suppliers for device memory, high-resolution display and NAND flash memory for the company’s iPad products.
Here’s another evidence point. Financial media is today reporting that Apple is sourcing a bigger screen for the upcoming new release of the iPhone. This 4 inch diagonal screen (contrasted with the current 3.5 inch screen) is reported to be sourced at suppliers LG Display Co., Sharp Corp. and Japan Display Inc. Consider that in March, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the parent of global contract manufacturer Foxconn, invested $800 million to take a 46.5 percent stake in Sharp’s LCD production facility in Sakai, western Japan. Japan Display was previously formed from the merged LCD production entities of Sony, Toshiba and Hitachi, that each decided to consolidate as one to garner more volume scale. If sourcing reports turn out to be accurate, Apple would, in essence, be balancing geographic related risk (Korea and Japan sourcing), and supplier and scale risk in having LCD supply alternatives beyond Samsung.
Being the goliath in terms of volume and scale of the consumer electronics value-chain comes with tremendous influence for long-term revenue and capacity planning. At the same time, such influence must include a balance of risk and influence. We should all take notice of Apple since it continues as a benchmark in these practices.