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Apple's Next BRIC Growth Frontier: Russia?

You can't spell BRIC without the "R."

While the BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, and China -- cumulatively continue to face challenges with slowing growth, these emerging markets are still expected to see growth topping what developed markets can put up.



Brazil 205.7 million
Russia 138.1 million
India 1.21 billion
China 1.34 billion
Total 2.9 billion

Source: CIA World Factbook. Estimates as of July 2012.

Combined, those four countries comprise more than 40% of the world's estimated population of 7 billion.

3 of the 4
Of these, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is already cashing in on China, with Greater China revenue jumping 48% to $5.7 billion last quarter. Here's even more detail on Apple's blistering performance in China over the past few years. China is also the only BRIC country where Apple has a direct retail presence, with six stores (including Hong Kong), selling through reseller and carrier partners in the other three BRIC nations.

On the January conference call, CEO Tim Cook also made it clear that Brazil was next after China in terms of importance, saying: "[T]he second country on the list of those four [BRIC], for us, would be Brazil. I think there's a huge opportunity for us there, and we've more than begun to go deeper into Brazil, but I don't want to signal that that means that Apple retail will be there, because I don't envision that occurring in the near term."

"The doors are now open" for Apple to make a big retail push into India, thanks to a policy change earlier this year by India's Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, allowing higher levels of direct foreign ownership of single-branded retail stores. Still, there are yet to be any Apple retail stores or direct sales, and on the most recent conference call, Cook expressed that other countries are higher on the totem pole in priority in the intermediate term, in part because of the multilayered distribution in India that adds costs.

To Russia with iLove
According to a recent report from The Moscow News, Apple has registered a new distribution subsidiary that would enable Apple to sell directly to consumers instead of through the third-party resellers it currently relies on. Apple execs supposedly traveled to Moscow early last year to scope out possible retail store locations but came back empty-handed.

If everything goes according to plan, Apple could begin direct online sales in 2013, with retail stores hopefully following soon after. Ideally, that would reduce prices for consumers by eliminating a layer of resellers that demand their own margins. The report estimates that 75% of all Apple products are still distributed in Russia through one reseller, diHouse. Other major distributors include Marvel and OSC. The iPhone maker reportedly will focus initially in Moscow and St. Petersburg and expand from there.

The new distribution arm, Apple Rus, may also begin selling iPhones. Apple is allegedly unhappy with the selling efforts of local carrier partners VimpelCom (NYSE: VIP  ) and Mobile TeleSystems (NYSE: MBT  ) and so is looking to take sales into its own hands.

A spokeswoman for reseller Re:Store Retail Group said prices are unlikely to fall, as Apple products are already near pricing parity with European counterparts, but direct distribution would enable faster time to market. It's time for Apple to grow its ranks of iComrades.

Growth checklist
This goes to show how much more growth remains largely untapped for Apple in numerous geographies around the world. Growing direct sales and retail stores is just the beginning. Taking out the middlemen improves the overall purchasing experience and strengthens Apple's direct relationship with customers.


Direct Sales

Retail Stores

Brazil Yes No
Russia No No
India No No
China Yes Yes

Source: Apple.

Just consider how rosy Apple's digits will look if in the long-term every box in that table is eventually marked "yes."

By the looks of it, Apple still has growth written all over it. The company has no shortage of catalysts, and you can find a full breakdown here in this new premium report. Sign up now and get free updates included.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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