Apple Finally Selling iPhone On China Mobile

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This morning Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) revealed that it had finally signed a deal that will see it offer the iPhone on China Mobile. The world’s largest carrier has had trouble supporting the world’s most popular smartphone line because of wireless standard issues. The news precipitated a strong uptick in Apple stock before the market opened on Monday.

The China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) deal was an inevitability at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL). The company has been in talks to offer the iPhone on the network for years, and the deal is a tremendous boon to both companies. Apple is expected to sell as many as 17 million iPhones on China Mobile next year. The announcement of the deal leaves little obvious upside for the stock, however.

Apple iPhone On China Mobile

According to the deal China Mobile will begin to accept orders for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c on December 25. The company will begin to ship the devices to customers on January 17. The carrier did not announce the pricing of the smartphones, nor did it reveal how many units it would be able to get its hands on. The launch of a new iPhone is almost inevitably met with supply shortages. China Mobile may face similar troubles, despite the lack of iPhone supply issues at present.

China Mobile has access to 760 million subscribers, making it the largest mobile carrier on the planet by customer numbers. The company’s loyal bill payers have not had the opportunity to buy an iPhone before now, though they have been able to use an iPhone from another carrier, or bought directly from Apple, on the network.

Apple investors are clearly excited about the prospect of increased iPhone sales in the first quarter of 2014, but there isn’t all that much to be excited about beyond that date. After an initial surge of iPhone sales on China Mobile, accounted for by pent up demand, there is likely to be a lowering of sales on the network. As Apple heads into 2013, upsides seem difficult to pin down.

Apple Upside Disappears

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is still one of the strongest tech operators out there, but the company needs to be strong in a way that surprises investors. Right now the company’s advantages are priced into its stock. The China Mobile deal was the last obvious change to the business that was likely to hit the stock at the end of 2013. Heading into 2014, the company’s growth profile is little changed.

It’s possible that Apple will have something to surprise investors with in the early months of 2014. The company has long been rumored to have a new product in the works. The revelation of a new product is what really drives the firm’s stock, and it’s where any real upside is going to come from in the first few months of 2014.

The China Mobile deal is a big positive for Apple, but it was expected and it will not radically change the business. Investors will be looking high and low for a reason to hold the stock through the next six months. Unless Carl Icahn gets his way, there may not be much cause to do so.

Disclosure: Author represents that he has no position in any stocks mentioned in this article at the time this article was submitted.