France Telecom CEO Blames Poor iPhone Sales On "Frugal Customers"

When wondering why AAPL disappoints once more on its next earnings release, please pull a Bill Gross and look in the mirror, dear broke consumer, because it is your fault. At least that is the spin by the CEO of France Telecom, who says that iPhone sales are now being threatened by, drumroll please, "frugal buyers." That's right: in France "frugal" is now a dirty word. Not socialism, not 75% taxes, not budget ministers charged with rooting out tax fraud and lying about their Swiss bank accounts, not movie legends who can't wait to get Russian passports - it's "frugality" that is at fault. Because how dare French consumers not load up on cheap, government subsidized credit card debt and splurge like good old Americans who can't wait to pledge their shotguns as collateral for clunkers, and who haven't paid their mortgage in years courtesy of pervasive debt forgiveness for deadbeats, spending on iCrap instead? The France Telecom CEO demands answers now!

From Bloomberg:

France Telecom SA Chief Executive Officer Stephane Richard, head of one of Europe’s largest wireless carriers, said the increasing frugality of customers is threatening sales of pricey phones such as Apple Inc.’s iPhone. “We are in a period of changing consumer behavior,” Richard said yesterday during an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. There are fewer shoppers in search of the latest and greatest gadget, and more of them are seeking lower prices on wireless service, he said.

Unpossible: don't these good French socialists realize it is their sworn patriotic duty to fund the Chinese current account surplus using borrowed money they will most likely never repay?

The shift has been especially severe in Europe, where more customers are keeping the same phone when they switch carriers. Amid a slumping economy and mounting competition, France Telecom has seen prices drop 25 percent over the past three years, squeezing profit margins and its stock price. Its cheapest plan now provides unlimited calls and texting and 3 gigabytes of data for about 20 euros ($26) a month -- about half the price of T-Mobile USA Inc.’s $50 plan, which is touted as a U.S. bargain.


The persistent belt-tightening in France and elsewhere in Europe has decreased the number of consumers who buy the latest phones at top prices, Richard said. Without a carrier subsidy, the iPhone typically sells for about $600, making it too pricey for many shoppers, he said.


The change may be felt when Apple introduces its latest iPhone this year, Richard said. The product’s annual refresh has traditionally drawn long lines and a frenzy of anticipation since it first debuted in 2007.


“There are fewer early adopters, and probably with the next release of the iPhone this will be evident,” Richard said. “Selling a phone for $600 is getting more and more difficult.”

Maybe the French, like their American peers, should buy a home at a price far greater than they can ever possibly afford, and then demand it is their constitutional right to never pay even one mortgage payment? Because if one hopes that the mythical concept known as "cash flows" will ever go back to historical levels in a continent which as we reported earlier this week is now growing at brisk, 19th century growth levels, one will be waiting a long, long time.

In conclusion:

“Customers are more focused on price,” Richard said. “Except for a few hundred thousand people who will buy the latest iPhone -- except for that category of people -- the majority of the market will be difficult.”

That's ok. Apple has billions and billions in cash, which however will naturally dwindle to zero eventually from dividend payments, should the entire world suddenly be as evilly "frugal" as those non-cooperative French buyers.

In the meantime, just BTFD, because with Uncle Ben and his magic technicolor printer which just spews endless cash with which the Primary Dealers can buy the S&P, why bother with such trivia as math and the real world?

h/t Brian


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