Apple chief executive Tim Cook has his work cut out in China this year: the iPhone maker faces the looming threat of a court-ordered sales ban, the uncertain outcome of trade war talks and the roll-out of a new 5G network, where it finds itself behind rivals like Huawei and Samsung.
The complex outlook raises a challenge for Apple as it looks to revive its China fortunes after weakness there sparked a rare drop in its global sales forecast, knocked $75 billion from its market valuation and roiled global markets.
Cook told investors that the main drag on the firm’s performance in China had been a sharper-than-expected slowdown in the country’s economy, exacerbated by the impact of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing.
“We did not foresee the magnitude of the economic deceleration, particularly in Greater China,” he said.
Chinese shoppers told Reuters another element had been key: the high price-tag on Apple’s flagship phones.
Analysts said the firm faced a brewing storm of challenges: an economic slowdown, stronger rivals like Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] bringing out a comparable tech at lower prices and bubbling patriotic sentiment amid the trade war.
A Chinese court has also issued a preliminary injunction banning some Apple phones, part of a legal battle with chip maker Qualcomm Inc. This ban, potentially hitting iPhone models from the 6S through the X, has yet to be enforced.
On Thursday a local industry body, the China Anti-Infringement, and Anti-Counterfeit Innovation Strategic Alliance, called on Apple to heed the court order and not “trample the Chinese law by leveraging its super economic power and clout.”
Apple declined to comment on the group’s statement but has previously said it believes its current phones comply with the Chinese court’s order.
“These are tough times for Apple in China,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint, adding the iPhone could see its market share slip to 7 percent this year in the face of stronger local rivals and worry about the sales ban.
Apple’s market share in the third-quarter of 2018 was around 9 percent, and has dipped from above 14 percent in 2015, overtaken by local rivals like Huawei, Oppo and Vivo.
Another question mark for Apple is its 5G strategy in China, where the U.S. firm is not expected to have a 5G-enabled phone until 2020, behind rivals like Huawei, Xiaomi Corp and Samsung Electronics.
China is looking to push ahead with its rollout of a faster 5G network, with a pre-commercial phase this year and a commercial network in 2020.
Some are looking to make an early bet on the technology. Huawei is planning a 5G phone mid-year, while Xiaomi is aiming for the third quarter. Samsung is expected to unveil a 5G phone in the first half of the year.
Industry insiders, however, said Apple would likely hold off until the fall of 2020 to have its own 5G-enabled phone, a strategy that would bypass the untested early period of the technology, but which could mean Chinese shoppers delay iPhone purchases or buy another brand that switched to 5G earlier.
“I’ll definitely be paying attention to 5G functionality when I buy my next phone,” said Wu Chengjun, a graduate student in Beijing who currently uses an iPhone X.
With the exception of Huawei, which makes it own 5G chips, Qualcomm is providing the technology to many of the major phone makers releasing 5G handsets this year.
“If you’re a [phone maker] looking for a ‘super cycle’ [of sales], if you don’t have 5G, your situation won’t get any better,” Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s president, told Reuters in an interview. “The carrier channel is going to be incentivized to start selling 5G phones in the second half” of 2019, he said.
But there are risks integrating 5G too early into high-end smart phones because the technology requires deeply re-designing the devices with multiple new antennas. Given spotty coverage in 2019, gambling on a new design before networks are mature could be more risk than reward, said Darryn Lowe, a Bain & Co partner who works with the wireless industry.
“When you think about 5G, it’s a heck of a lot more complicated than an aluminum strip running around the phone,” he said.
And other shoppers and analysts said Apple’s more cautious approach to 5G made sense and that the firm would not likely lose out too much to rivals by delaying its launch.
Apple’s decision to wait to adopt 4G until after other makers didn’t hurt it. But that was when consumers commonly purchased a phone every two years, a cycle that has elongated and might prompt buyers to want a more “future proof” device, said Glenn Lurie, CEO of Synchronoss Technologies and the former head of AT&T’s wireless unit.
“If you’re going to walk in to make a 30-month decision, the concept that I’ve already got 5G built in, it feels pretty good,” Lurie said.
But buyers such as Li Hongzhuo, 22, a student in Beijing, said he was interested in 5G, but it wouldn’t be the deciding factor and he preferred to wait until the technology was tried and tested.
“Typically my needs for my phone are high speeds for downloading videos or transferring files from chat apps. This will get faster (with 5G), but 4G already satisfies my needs,” said Li.
“I won’t really consider switching my phone until 5G has been operating stably on the market for some time without any bugs – or unless they stop offering 4G.”
NCDMB: The agency providing funding, incubation and mentorship opportunities for technology startups and innovators
Win up to $10,000 Seed Funding in the NCDMB Oil & Gas Technology Hackathon
The Nigerian Oil and Gas Technology (NOGTECH) programme is the first ever Oil and Gas hackathon with the primary aim of fostering innovations in the oil and gas industry as well as creating a platform for the proliferation of local content. The programme is headlined by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) with partnership from Learners Support Consultancy and BrentHub.
NOGTECH aims to address the challenges faced by the nation’s oil and gas industry and its linkage sectors by ideating, developing and prototyping digital technology solutions that solve these pertinent problems. The programme is promoting innovation by offering seed funding, business mentorship and incubation to the winning ideas.
Call for Submissions
The Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Engr. Simbi Kesiye Wabote, disclosed that “five teams will get $10,000 equity-free grants each”.
In a webinar session titled “Innovating for the future of Nigeria’s Oil & Gas Industry and its Linkage Sectors.”, Engr. Wabote revealed that submissions into the programme will be scrutinised based on several factors.
”Participants must be a team/company of at least two or more members with at least 75 percent of the founding team as Nigerians. The team/company must be a registered, or intending to register as a profit/business entity. The solution described in response to the challenge must be driven by digital technology – Software, Hardware or both.”
He also disclosed that “the solution must either be at the ideation stage, prototype level or a launched solution that hasn’t gained commercial traction. The team must be available to participate in a three-day hackathon as well as a three-month incubation programme, if selected.”
Solving the Industry’s Toughest Challenges
NCDMB is determined to unearth scalable solutions to the industry’s biggest challenges. Some of the identified problem areas include the rising problem of pipeline vandalism, increase in cyber-physical risk, widening skill gap, supply chain and logistics inefficiency, rising carbon footprint and issues surrounding transparency, accountability and civic engagement.
Innovators are encouraged to proffer sustainable and scalable solutions to these biggest challenges faced by industry stakeholders.
Pitching to Investors
Ultimately, the winning teams will have an opportunity to pitch their prototypes to investors. But before then, the NOGTECH programme is taking place over several weeks with the selected ideas advancing on a stage by stage basis.
The first stage is the call for submissions where teams and startups are encouraged to submit their ideas. Shortlisted teams in each of the challenge areas will first be invited to present online to a team of experienced entrepreneurs and industry professionals. The most promising teams will then be selected to participate in an all-expense paid 3-day hackathon. Submit your ideas here
During this time, shortlisted participants will have a couple of days to collaborate and build their prototypes or fine-tune existing prototypes with guidance from industry stakeholders, experts and mentors. At the end of the bootcamp, teams will revalidate their solutions and have the opportunity to pitch to a panel of judges.
Prizes for Winning Teams
The winning five teams will undergo a 3-month incubation program where each team will get a $10,000 equity-free grant, a work-space, expert mentors, global partners and unprecedented market access over three-months, ensuring they become commercial and investor-ready.
At the end of the incubation, the teams will participate in a showcase day to demonstrate their progress. This showcase will aim to connect them with investors and industry stakeholders where they can further amplify their market access.
So if you are an innovator seeking opportunities, identifying them and seizing the ones that then match, then you have to apply to NOGTECH.
In order to participate in the hackathon, innovators, teams and startups can get started here.
Blue Ridge Enhances Machine Learning Capabilities for Price Optimization
Blue Ridge announced today enhancements to its suite of next-gen cloud-based Price Optimization solutions, which leverage machine learning to quickly identify opportunities and simulate pricing strategies for peak margin, profits, revenues and sales. The pricing suite supports end-to-end pricing transformations, a strategy proven to minimize disruption and drive significant earnings expansion for distributors and retailers.
Blue Ridge’s Price Optimization solution quickly identifies both overpriced and underpriced products while providing accurate recommendations for aligning prices across products, channels and price points including wholesale, list and customer segment. The solution provides daily alerts on competitive price changes to react quickly in price-transparent ecommerce channels, as well as make recommendations on reducing excess inventory to create significant value and profit margin improvement.
“Today’s enterprises and brands have seen the impact when supply chains and demand signals disrupt markets,” said Ray Wang, Principal Analyst & CEO, Constellation Research, Inc. “Those leaders who had the right price optimization tools were able to respond with agility, resiliency, and speed to account for new signal intelligence and ensure that customers were satisfied, margins were met, and supply chains were not disrupted.”
A report by McKinsey & Company illustrated the latent benefits of intelligent pricing, estimating that “A one-percent price increase would yield 22 percent increase in EBITDA margins, and a 25 percent uplift in stock price. Moreover, pricing has a disproportionate impact on a distributor’s enterprise value, with an increase of 20 percent for a one-percent increase in price.”
“The highly competitive and increasingly digital landscape of consumer buying today requires that distributors and retailers analyze things like minimum advertised price, psychological price points, willingness-to-pay measurement, and even list and net pricing, as well as macroeconomic influences before setting prices,” said Cliff Isaacson, Blue Ridge Executive Vice President of Product Strategy. “Machine learning-based pricing tools allow our customers to make those decisions swiftly and confidently, so they can always operate at max-profit point.”
Blue Ridge Price Optimization uses machine learning capabilities to continually optimize pricing across all products (not just top-tier items), segment and perfect pricing for each customer, and give distributors the upper-hand in supplier negotiations:
- Comprehensive Pricing Strategy: Simulate different pricing scenarios and predict the impact of a price change before implementing it.
- Competitive Positioning: Respond immediately to price changes from competitors, as well as supplier rules, segmentation, positioning and price change frequency.
- Intelligent Analytics: Purpose-built for the distribution and retail industries, Price Optimization’s intelligent science learns from price changes and results over time to steadily improve price recommendations.
- Customer Segmentation: Identifies customer performance, discounting and pricing opportunities based on willingness-to-pay and past performance.
- Rapid Results: In under 90 days, businesses can have intelligent Price Optimization recommendations for achieving both short-term and long-term S&OP goals, continually refined year after year.
Price Optimization joins Blue Ridge’s suite of Supply Chain Planning solutions, which help customers increase forecast accuracy, improve customer satisfaction, and assure product availability to customers without creating a costly inventory surplus.
“Price Optimization combined with Supply Chain Planning solutions creates a huge financial game-changer for retailers, distributors and manufacturers in today’s volatile market,” said Jim Byrnes, Blue Ridge Chief Executive Officer. “It uniquely blends science and synchronization to solve our customers’ biggest problem – what they don’t know. With Price Optimization, our customers have the insight to pivot quickly and grab significant near-term savings; shape and align longer-range S&OP processes; and consistently deliver pricing that’s both competitive and profitable.”
Ecobank Group and JA Africa partner to promote financial literacy skills among Africa’s youth
Junior Achievement (JA) Africa and Ecobank Group announce their new partnership- “Banking on Africa’s Youth.” The partnership will undertake a campaign that will tap into JA’s vast online community, comprising over one million young social media followers spread across Africa. It will educate and mobilize over 600,000+ young people with financial literacy knowledge, as part of Ecobank’s Junior Savers initiative which in part seeks to grow financial inclusion for young Africans using Ecobank’s mobile/digital resources.
The purpose of the online campaign is to empower potential and existing Junior Savers account holders with the requisite financial literacy knowledge to understand and begin to build a culture of savings as part of their personal financial habits. The campaign targets youth groups, online influencers, and communities with knowledge of some basic financial concepts.
“The Ecobank Group is committed to building financial literacy and money management skills amongst the youth as they transition into Africa’s productive workforce,” said Nana Araba Abban, Group Consumer Banking Head at Ecobank Transnational Incorporated. “Our collaboration with JA Africa will enable us to positively impact young citizens who are our investment in the future of the continent.”
The value for customers will be expanded to include financial literacy concepts: earning, budgeting, spending, and banking. The campaign will involve participants advancing progressively through the four concepts. JA Africa will launch the campaign to reach different youth groups in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, and Senegal through all its media outlets over a period of three years.
Speaking about the program, JA Africa’s CEO, Elizabeth Elango Bintliff, said, “This partnership with the Ecobank Group reinforces both JA Africa’s and the banking group’s commitment to financial literacy and inclusion for all Africans, especially the youth. We believe in educating a new generation of leaders with the knowledge they need to navigate their economic futures while giving them the tools to succeed.”
Africa’s youth today are growing up in a new financial world where technology plays a big role in in their lives. This partnership will go a long way to reach and influence behavior of millions of unbanked young people on the African continent by giving them the requisite financial literacy skills to become financially informed adults in the future. According to the World Bank 2018 report, young Africans are less likely to have a bank account than adults on the continent. At the same time, they are more likely to have a mobile phone, engage with friends and be aware of digital channels. Current technology channels, especially social and digital media, provide the avenue to reach and engage young people at scale. The campaign therefore seeks to leverage technology to achieve its goals.