Here are 3 key players in Apple’s massive supply chain

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer
CEO Tim Cook presents the new iPhone 11 at an Apple event at their headquarters in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 10, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Apple (AAPL) posted strong Q4 earnings on Wednesday, beating analyst expectations for both revenue and earnings per share. Management painted a rosy picture of the future, showing a path to shift focus from the iPhone to a more diversified suite of services and products — and specifically wearables.

The company, which still remains principally a hardware-driven company despite a foray into services, is still embroiled in trade war worries. But Cook took an optimistic position, noting that the positive outlook for the future represents his believe that the conflicts with China will subside and result in a deal.

“I don’t know every chapter of the book, but I think that will eventually happen,” Cook told Reuters. “I certainly hope it happens during the quarter, but we’ll see about that.”

Apple’s supply chain is inexorably linked to China, which also represents a key market for the company. For investors, understanding, evaluating and comparing its exposure to supply chain risk is difficult as supply chain disclosure isn’t usually mandated. Furthermore, there are many different ways of looking at supply chain and business relationships.

To help understand those risks and relationships, Yahoo Finance Premium explores five different types of what are called ‘relationship exposure scores,’ by analyzing millions of unstructured documents and filings. Looking at the data, three key players stick out.

Hon Hai Precision

Hon Hai Precision (2317.TW)—better known as Foxconn Technology—is a Taiwan based electronics manufacturer that makes a huge volume of iPhones and iPads for Apple in China. As the literal manufacturer, the company is a hugely valuable part of the company’s supply chain.

Among Apple’s supplier relationships, Hon Hai’s represents the largest “economic exposure” and “economic value,” according to Yahoo Premium data. Economic exposure reflects the relative value of one company to another, and in this case, Hon Hai represents about 4.44% of the value of Apple’s suppliers. In actual dollars, the value of the relationship is $7.1 billion.

Apple's biggest business relationships.

ON Semi

ON Semiconductor (ON) is a company that produces all manner of little parts for Apple's products. Think logic boards, power management, and tons of those circuit thingies you see when you open up an iPhone.

According to the data, this company has the highest “financial exposure” among Apple’s suppliers. The financial exposure is a weighted percentage of the financial correlation between the two companies, compared to other similar relationships. This score is calculated based on the correlation of companies’ stock prices and the length of time of the relationship. These companies are likely influenced by similar factors or economic conditions affecting the market, or by each other. This number is normalized to be a usable, comparable figure. The higher the number, the more the stock typically moves with Apple’s.

Apple's suppliers grouped by what companies have the most financial exposure.


Qualcomm (QCOM) and Apple have had a very complicated relationship. Qualcomm is a semiconductor company that makes chips for phones, which Apple uses. In 2017, Apple sued the company for $1 billion. (In 2018, the EU hit Qualcomm for antitrust violations.) The two companies almost fought it out in court this year, but settled instead.

Companies are of course often mentioned together in the media, and calculating the number of mentions in news articles can give insight into business relationships. In the media, where there’s a Qualcomm, there’s often an Apple. This doesn’t include SEC filings, and it isn’t a very “financial” metric, but it may reflect how the public views the companies’ narratives.

When Qualcomm is mentioned in the media, Apple is often mentioned.

Qualcomm also has the greatest total exposure. This calculation synthesizes the correlation from financial exposure, the news mentions from media exposure, and the revenue-based economic exposure into one number to view what companies might be most affected by each other. Qualcomm and Intel, for example, would likely be affected by changes at Apple.

Qualcomm has the most total exposure among all Apple's suppliers.

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Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, personal finance, retail, airlines, and more. He is reporting from Berlin on the Arthur F. Burns fellowship from the International Center for Journalists. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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