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A Chinese New Year for Apple

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I'll always remember April 24, 2012 as the day that Apple (AAPL - Get Report) sales officially became the top Chinese play on Wall Street. We all know that Verizon (VZ - Get Report) iPhone sales were down 24% from the holiday quarter and AT&T (T - Get Report) sales were down 43% from the holiday quarter.

The question of the year is...how many iPhones did Apple just sell in China? No specific data has ever been released on Chinese units so it's difficult to come up with projections but we do know a few details:

Apple

1. China Unicom has 209 million subscribers, 48 million of whom are 3G subscribers and we know they launched the iPhone 4S on Jan. 13. We also know that they are selling the iPhone for free with a contract.

2. The Unicom launch was so frenzied that Apple had to cancel the launch at its flagship store.

3. During Q4, we figure that China accounted for 20% of iPhone's sold or approximately 7 million. Those were sales of an old phone (iPhone 4), it was during a pre-launch quarter, and it was prior to the Chinese holiday New Year. So how many iPhones could China Unicom have sold with a new iPhone 4S during the Chinese holiday? We think they could have matched the 117% launch growth witnessed in the U.S. which would put sales at 15.2 million from China Unicom alone.

4. China Telecom launched the iPhone 4S on March 9 after taking 200,000 pre-orders. China Telecom has 132 million subscribers, 41 million of whom are 3G subscribers.

The 25 million iPhone estimate generated from the Verizon and AT&T numbers assumed sales of 5 million iPhone units from China along with dormant demand from additional launch countries. China most likely did 15 million units and boosted the iPhone number up to 35 million.

Get ready for euphoria on Wall Street. Apple likely will end the week at a new all-time high. Cheers to the operations genius, Tim Cook, for orchestrating a flawless Chinese iPhone launch, a quarter after the U.S. launch.
At the time of publication, the author was long AAPL.

Jason Schwarz is an option strategist for Lone Peak Asset Management in Westlake Village, Calif. He is also the founder of the popular investment newsletter available at www.economictiming.com. Over the past few years, Schwarz has gained acclaim for his market calls on the price of oil, Bank of America, Apple, E*Trade, and his precision investing in S&P 500 option LEAPS. His book, The Alpha Hunter, is set to be released by McGraw Hill in December 2009.

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