Tim Cook, Apple CEO, says China will overtake U.S. as iPhone maker's biggest market

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks following an introduction

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks following an introduction of the new iPhone 5 in San Francisco. (Sept. 12, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Apple Inc. chief executive Tim Cook said China will overtake the U.S. to become its largest market, as the iPhone-maker adds more stores and considers debuting new products in the country.

“I believe it will become our first,” Cook said in an interview with state-owned Xinhua News Wednesday. No time frame was given for the prediction. The Cupertino, California-based company had $5.7 billion of sales in China during the quarter ended September. U.S. revenue was about $14.4 billion, based on figures in an Oct. 25 earnings statement.

Cook also met the chairman of China Mobile Ltd. while in the country, as he seeks to boost cooperation with a wireless operator that has 707 million customers and no agreement to sell iPhones. The CEO is making his second visit to the country in less than a year as Apple tries to reverse its shrinking share of the local smartphone market.


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Apple intends to open “many more” outlets in China over the next several years, Cook said in the Xinhua interview. The company now has 11 stores in China and Hong Kong.

Cook also said he would also “love” to introduce new products in China first, according to the report. The iPhone 5 was released in China in December, almost three months after the U.S. introduction.

CHINA GROWTH

The company’s growth in the world’s most populous nation has been limited by it only working with smaller carriers and competition from domestic phone-makers. Its share of the nation’s smartphone market slipped to sixth from fourth in the third quarter, according to researcher IDC.

Wednesday, Cook met with Xi Guohua, the chairman on China Mobile at the carrier’s headquarters in Beijing. The two discussed “cooperation,” according to a statement from China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless operator by subscribers. It didn’t elaborate.

China Mobile, which accounts for 64 percent of the nation’s mobile users, said last month that it needs to reach agreements on benefit-sharing with Apple before it can begin offering iPhones. The operator also has a homegrown third-generation network that isn’t used by other carriers.

Apple distributes iPhone with the nation’s second- and third-largest carriers: China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd. and China Telecom Corp.

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