Treat Apple’s Asian suppliers with caution: Goldman

Leslie Shaffer
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Since the latest iPhone launch lacked its traditional éclat, it's time to treat Apple's Asian suppliers with caution, Goldman Sachs said.

Apple's iPhone 5C launch earlier this week didn't meet pricing expectations; coming in at over $500 in the U.S. without a contract and about $100 with a two-year contract and over $700 without a contract in China, industry experts said the price is still too high to crack into emerging markets.

Another disappointment came from the lack of a widely expected announcement of a deal with China Mobile, which boasts over 700 million subscribers and which industry experts believe could offset any sales hit from the iPhone 5C's high price.

(Read more: Why everyone was wrong about Apple)

Shares of Apple's Asian suppliers have outperformed the region's tech companies since April, suggesting the new-product hype may be priced in, Goldman said in a note, adding that disappointment with the launch means analysts are unlikely to raise earnings forecasts.

The region's Apple supplier shares dropped Wednesday, a day after the iPhone 5C launch, following an overnight decline in Apple's shares in U.S. trading. Recovery from the sell-off has been spotty.

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The valuations of suppliers' shares aren't very compelling, Goldman noted. Its basket of shares of Taiwan-based Apple suppliers which have a high correlation with Apple's stock price is trading at 12.5 times 2013 earnings forecast, compared with 11.7 times for Apple itself.

The basket is also trading at a 5.4 percent premium to the MSCI Asia-Pacific Ex-Japan Technology index on a forward-earnings basis, suggesting limited near-term upside, based on historical trading patterns, the note said.

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To be sure, the suppliers should have fairly high earnings visibility for the near term, given demand from the new product ramp-up and high utilization of their capacity in the third quarter, the bank said, adding a cooperation deal with China Mobile will likely be a "when, not if."

Demand for the next generation of the iPad, due sometime this fall, should also be solid, it noted.

(Read more: Apple's new iPhone 5C may be priced just right)

Within Goldman's 12-stock Taiwan-based Apple-supplier basket, it has buy ratings on only four shares: Catcher Technology, Largan Precision, Flexium Interconnect and Parade Technologies.

It excluded several "well-regarded" Apple proxies from its basket, including Taiwan-based Hon Hai, TPK and Wintek, because they tend to not trade in line with Apple's shares as well, the note said.

In an April report, Goldman noted Apple's 2013 supplier list contains 87 listed tech plays in Asia, including Japan, with the U.S. tech giant accounting for around 20 percent of their revenue.

—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter