Analyst warns Apple could be headed for rough two years

Apple Store Side logo San Francisco

If you thought Apple had already been through a rough period, just wait. That’s the message from one Wall Street analyst who predicts the iPhone maker is “facing a very rough two-year period.”

Although Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook spent Wednesday defending his company’s horde of cash, those concerns could evaporate as Apple spends billions to prop up slowing iPhone sales and works to improve demand in emerging markets.

Apple could see capital expenditures double, according to Jeffries’ analyst Peter Misek, forecasting billions in payments for supplier upgrades, emerging-market payment plans and expensive technology updates all while iPhone sales plunge…

According to Misek, “international iPhone sales are slowing dramatically.” The one bright spot may be places such as India, where smartphone adoption has plenty of potential growth, reports Fortune.

However, unlike China and elsewhere, India’s carriers don’t offer subsidies on handsets. The lack of subsidies coupled with India’s penchant for pre-paid cellular service means Apple will need to finance the purchase of iPhones – either through payment plans or by offering a handset subsidy directly to consumers. In either case, Apple’s cash will drop by $10 billion with another $40 “deferred,” claims Misek.

However, falling iPhone sales could make “a quick change more difficult,” the analyst warns.

iPhone 5 (three-up, profile, front, back, black and white)

Another potential worry for Apple over the next two years may be the need to finance expansion by its suppliers. In late 2012, there was talk Apple bailed out Sharp to the tune of $2 billion.

That followed word by Sharp it had eliminated a bottleneck in iPhone 5 displays. But improving chip supplies could even be costlier. We reported that not even $1 billion was enough for Apple to get chipmaker TSMC to focus production exclusively on Apple products.

However, we wonder if international iPhone sales are expected to “dramatically” slow, why the need to finance supplier expansion?

A third reason for Apple to crack open the checkbook sounds more plausible: the charge of ‘whitebox’ (or non-brandname) smartphones. We’ve written about this threat to Apple from China’s Coolpad, which sells an inexpensive iPhone alternative seen below for less than the device that bear’s Apple’s logo.

Yulong CoolPad N900

Misek points to Gionee and Konka, two smartphone firms producing inexpensive Android-based versions of the Samsung Galaxy 3. Production of the phones “are forcing Apple to invest in next-gen screen technology in order to differentiate,” writes the analyst.

Apple’s been written off as dead before and cooler heads have pointed to its wide lead in multiple areas.

At least Misek limits Apple’s risk to two years.

Some observers have issued forecasts that Apple will lead until 2016 and then apparently enter some Silicon Valley oblivion.

It’s a shame that Apple will need to spend some of its vast cache of profits, but no business is immune to downtimes. If the company has fallen, it is from absolutely astonishing returns to just plain better than average.