Apple, China Mobile: Closer Than Ever

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Perhaps the reason to be most bullish on Apple ( AAPL) as it pertains to China is starting to come to fruition. It's not there yet, however.

Discussing first-half results, China Mobile ( CHL) Chairman Xi Guohua was optimistic about a deal between his company and the iconic iPhone maker, saying the two sides are "actively negotiating," but that there are some "commercial and technology issues that need time to resolve."

This isn't the first time the two companies have been in the news together. In early January, it was reported that Apple CEO Tim Cook and Guohua had met on "matters of cooperation," but there was nothing new to report at that time. Cook was spotted in China again in July, but again there was nothing new to report on an official relationship between Apple and China Mobile.

Eventually the two companies will come to a deal, and it will be huge for both companies, moreso Apple. China Mobile had 740 million customers at the end of the first half of 2013, up 8.4% year-over-year. At the end of June, it had 137.9 million 3G users, which is the segment Apple is targeting.

Obviously Apple isn't going to get all 137.9 million users. But China Mobile continues to build out its network and a new chip from Qualcomm ( QCOM), the RF360, which was unveiled in February, will eventually allow China Mobile to officially support an iPhone on its network. The RF360 supports the following networks: LTE-FDD, LTE-TDD, WCDMA, EV-DO, CDMA 1x, TD-SCDMA and GSM/EDGE, thus making it a global chip that will allow Apple to run its iPhones on every cell network in the world.

It's thought that there are already as many as 10 million iPhones on the network, though the world's largest carrier doesn't officially support it.

In Apple's latest quarter, revenue from China fell 43% sequentially, and 14% year-over-year to $4.64 billion. On Apple's recent earnings call, Cook noted that some accounting and inventory factors weighed on China, but it wasn't clear what exactly happened.

Cook reiterated on the earnings call that China is incredibly important to Apple, despite the troublesome numbers from the most recent quarter. "And so I continue to believe that in the arc of time here, China is a huge opportunity for Apple and I don't get discouraged over a 90-day cycle that can have economic factors and other things in it," he said.

Ultimately getting a deal with China Mobile for the iPhone and perhaps the low-end iPhone, currently dubbed the iPhone 5C, would be a huge boon for Apple, as a deal is not currently baked into analysts models. Right now, Apple is expected to generate $35.96 billion in revenue for the fical fourth-quarter which ends in Sept,. and $54.76 billion in the fiscal first-quarter, Apple's all-important holiday season.

In the past, Apple has been able to get the latest iPhone over to China in December. Should Apple announce the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C in Sept. as many are expecting, I would expect this trend to continue, and analysts' estimates will have to be raised.

Judging by Guohua's comments, it sounds like a deal between the two companies is closer than ever. That's good news for Apple shareholders, who desperately need some these days, not named Carl Icahn.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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