Apple and other firms face shipment delays over China’s supply chain squeeze

Factories are awaiting government approval to reopen amid zero-Covid policy

Apple supplier Pegatron said this week it would suspend its plants in Shanghai and Kunshan. Getty Images
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Shipments of some Apple products, as well as Dell and Lenovo laptops are likely to face delays if China’s Covid-19 lockdowns persist, analysts said, as curbs force assemblers to shut down and closed-loop arrangements get harder to maintain.

China’s race to stop the spread of Covid-19 has jammed highways and ports, stranded workers and left countless factories awaiting government approval to reopen – disruptions that are rippling through global supply chains.

Apple supplier Pegatron said this week it would suspend its plants in Shanghai and Kunshan, where according to supply chain experts it produces the iPhone 13, the iPhone SE series and other legacy models.

Quanta Computer, which produces some three-quarters of Apple’s Macbooks globally, also shut operations, which could impact deliveries more severely, analysts said.

The final impact on Apple’s supply chain is uncertain and depends on factors including how long lockdowns persist.

The company may also consider re-routing production out of Shanghai and Kunshan to factories elsewhere, such as Shenzhen, which currently is not under lockdown, analysts said.

“Apple may consider transferring the orders from Pegatron to Foxconn, but we expect the volume may be limited due to the logistics issue and the difficulty of equipment adjustment,” said Eddie Han, a senior analyst at Isaiah Research.

Foxconn is the trade name of Hon Hai Precision Industry.

As a worst-case scenario, Pegatron may fall behind on 6 million to 10 million iPhone units if the lockdowns last two months and Apple cannot reroute orders, Mr Han said.

Apple may consider re-routing production out of Shanghai and Kunshan to factories elsewhere, such as Shenzhen, which currently is not under lockdown. Getty Images

The chief executives of Huawei Technologies and Xpeng have flagged huge economic costs if factories in Shanghai cannot resume production soon.

Shanghai is approaching its third week of lockdown and has shown no sign of a wide re-opening.

Forrest Chen, research manager at Trendforce, told Reuters that if lockdowns lift in a few weeks, there is still a chance to recover.

However, “if the lockdown lasts longer than two months, there is already no way to recover. At that point, after lockdown lifts, there would be a shortage for end-users”, he said.

Some suppliers may be able to re-route production.

Unimicron Technology, which makes printed circuit boards for companies including Apple, told Reuters the impact of the Kunshan lockdown so far has been minor and that it can rely on other plants in the Hubei province and Taiwan to support production.

Laptop makers may also suffer, including Compal Electronics, a Taiwan-based company that makes PCs for Dell Technologies and Lenovo Group from its plants in Kunshan.

Mr Chen estimates that roughly 50 per cent of Compal’s laptop production is located in Kunshan.

Compal told Reuters on Friday that it had not halted production in Kunshan.

Updated: April 16, 2022, 6:30 AM
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