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Apple Gets Kudos for Its Coronavirus Response: Here's Why

By Donna Fuscaldo - Mar 22, 2020 at 2:00PM

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Apple has been hit hard amid the COVID-19 outbreak, but its early actions could be enough to cushion the blows from the steep decline in demand and from supply chain disruptions.

With the coronavirus pandemic worsening in the U.S. and with companies scrambling to set employees up to work remotely, Apple (AAPL 1.62%) is getting kudos for how it's handling the outbreak so far. 

That could boost goodwill among customers and investors once the virus is contained. It's also prompting bulls on Wall Street to predict the stock could rally later this year even if it has a rough couple of quarters because of COVID-19. 

Year-to-date shares of Apple are down 22%, with the stock declining 29% since February 19. It still commands a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion. If the shares fall to $225, Piper Sandler said it would mark an attractive entry point. Even at $230 a share, the stock is much cheaper than it was a month ago, when it was trading around $323 a share. 

Globe with medical mask on it with the words coronavirus.

Image source: Getty Images.

Apple pulls out the stops in its response 

So what is Apple doing that is getting applauded by investors? A lot of things, it turns out.

Take for starters its warning for the fiscal second quarter. Apple was among the first technology companies to lower its revenue because of COVID-19. With most of its manufacturing in China and with a huge presence in the country, Apple saw the writing on the wall and quickly responded.

When it warned, it cited disruptions in the supply chain and a lack of demand amid quarantines. Despite Apple's warning, CEO Tim Cook remained optimistic as the spread of the virus in China eventually slowed and production began to pick back up. That doesn't mean the hit wasn't huge. According to data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, in February, iPhone sales plunged 61% in China.

Still, as a result of its actions, Apple appears to be rebounding in China quicker than peers. In a research report this week, Barclay's Tim Long said that based on conversations with contacts within the industry, he sees "very strong" iPad and AirPods demand. Part of that demand is being driven by an increase in remote schooling. The analyst did warn that Apple's new low-cost iPhone could be delayed, as could its 5G iPhone.

Amid COVID-19 outbreak, Apple rolls out a new iPad Pro

As the virus spread outside of China and into Europe and the U.S., Apple moved quickly to urge employees to work from home, banned travel, and canceled major in-person events. Its WWDC conference is now taking place online in June. Apple's quick move to have employees work at home has prevented some of the business disruptions that scores of U.S.-based companies are experiencing as their workforces set up remote offices. Just this week Apple rolled out a new iPad Pro, billed as its most advanced tablet to date. That was possible even with supply chain disruptions and reduced workers around the globe. 

With the number of cases surging in the U.S. and Europe, Apple has closed all its retail stores except for China and has poured millions of dollars into helping stop the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. It's also banning any coronavirus apps from the App Store that aren't from a vetted source, and it just announced that those with an Apple Card will be able to file hardship claims that will enable them to miss the March payment without incurring any interest. And in what was a huge about-face for the iPhone maker, Apple said it was OK to use disinfectant wipes to clean their devices.

All of these actions aren't going to stop demand for the iPhone from plummeting in the near term, nor is it going to prevent further supply chain disruptions. It also won't stop bears from warning that the impact from COVID-19 can spill into 2021. But Apple's action under CEO Cook demonstrates the company can step up in a time of crisis and provide humanitarian help simultaneously. That should position Apple well for when the virus is eventually contained.

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