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Apple Inc. (AAPL): What If It Follows Hewlett-Packard’s Path In China?

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been targeted by state-run media in China in recent weeks, and the campaign doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Currently there’s debate in the investment community about whether Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) needs China in order to turn things around.

Apple Inc. (AAPL): What If It Follows Hewlett-Packard's Path In China?

Analysts at Citi say it certainly does, and in a report issued to investors over the weekend, they compared the attack on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) with the attack on Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) a few years ago. The analysts highlighted a weekend note in which the State Administration for Industry and Commerce in China specifically pointed the finger at Apple in its push to scrutinize and punish electronics manufacturers for “illegal acts.”

Right now China amounts to approximately a 15 to 16 percent share of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s sales, and it amounted to about 24 percent of the company’s revenue growth between 2010 and 2012. Citi analysts say these numbers mean that if Apple follows in the path of Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ), it has a lot to lose.

They point out that in 2010, Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) lost about half of its PC share in China after a similar smear campaign by Chinese state-run media. If Apple loses customers at the same rate, that would be approximately $13.1 billion in revenue and $3.62 in earnings per share.

March 15 is World Consumer rights day, and this year China began its propaganda attack on Apple. On the same day back in 2010, the Chinese government began its attack on HP. Within a year of the beginning of that attack, HP lost about 42 percent of its Chinese market share. The company’s stock also dropped from $51.51 to $42.10 per share.

Citi analysts said their concerns about the Chinese reputation attacks against Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) have only served to heighten their worries of the stock, especially when paired with their recent estimate revisions amidst concerns about weakening demand for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) products. They said they “stand by” their December 16 downgrade of the stock to Neutral.

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