Here's How Apple, Hardware Suppliers Could be Hurt by Trump's Trade Crackdown

If President-elect Donald Trump follows through on his campaign rhetoric and rips up trade agreements with nations such as China and Mexico, the impact would ripple through tech hardware companies and suppliers.

Apple (AAPL) would among the high-profile names to take a hit though a number of other electronics manufacturing services companies such as Jabil Circuit (JBL)  , Flex (FLEX)   and Plexus (PLXS) . The company generates about 24% of its revenues from China, according to Deutsche Bank estimates, while FactSet puts its China revenue exposure at about 21%.

The company could face bigger problems at home, however. The U.S. remains Apple's top market, representing 35% of sales according to FactSet. In the event of a trade war, Deutsche Bank analyst Sherri Scribner suggests in a Tuesday report, tariffs on Chinese-made goods could present a significant challenge.

"Apple relies heavily on the Asian supply chain to produce its almost 300M units of products each year," Scribner wrote. "One of Apple's most important suppliers is Chinese-based Foxconn, who derives more than 50% of its sales from Apple products." Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

China has been a focal point for Trump's trade policy.

"Trump has railed against the Chinese as being unfair trading partners, at one point even proposing a 45% tariff on all goods coming from China, and there are fears he could spark a trade war," said Jim Cramer and Jack Mohr, the manager and research director for the Action Alerts PLUS portfolio, which owns AAPL

Cramer and Mohr discounted the likelihood of a tariff war, though. "We think Trump just wants a better peace, and putting the world's largest company, which was U.S.A.-made and remains forever aligned with the country's innovation, would be a major mistake," they said.

China trade policy would affect a broad swath of tech and electronics companies.

"If a product has any type of electronics in it, it is highly likely that some of the components were manufactured in China," Deutsche Bank's Scribner wrote. "As an example, roughly half of all printed circuit boards (PCBs) are manufactured in China, and PCBs are the backbone of all electronics devices."

Jabil has the greatest exposure among the electronics manufacturing services companies that Deutsche Bank covers, with 47% of its property, plant and equipment (PP&E) in China.

"We think it is too early to tell what actions the Trump administration will take on trade and manufacturing," Jabil Senior Vice President of investor relations and communications Beth Walters said in an email. "It's going to be an interesting road ahead."

Electronics manufacturing services company Flex has 37% of its PP&E in China. The company did not immediately respond to a query.

Reworking Nafta is another Trump priority. The President-elect has said that he wants to "[e]liminate Mexico's one-side backdoor tariff through the VAT and end sweatshops in Mexico that undercut U.S. workers."

Flex has the highest exposure to Mexico among Deutsche Bank's coverage of tech hardware makers and suppliers, with 17% of property, plant and equipment south of the border. Fellow electronics manufacturing services company Plexus has 12% of its PP&E in Mexico, while competitor Jabil has 5%.

While a trade war with China would create problems for Apple, the iPhone maker would likely benefit from other Trump policies. The incoming President has supported a tax break for repatriated cash. Apple is the poster child for offshore cash, with about $126 billion, or 91% of its cash and marketable securities, outside of the U.S.

A tax holiday could at least help to pay for a trade war.

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