Analyst: Parts Supplier Hints at iPhone Launch Window

Flexible printed circuit board maker MFLEX told investors it changed the timing of its production ramps, and will be reporting more sales in its December quarter. The company just so happens to supply parts to Apple, and Wells Fargo Securities analyst Maynard Um thinks that hints at the production schedule for the next generation iPhone.

MFLEX schedule hints at October iPhone launchAssuming the company’s production schedule is linked to the next iPhone, that could mean limited supplies if it launches in September, or it could mean Apple is planning on an October release.

“Although MFLEX did not provide customer detail, we believe the December ramp is iPhone 5 related,” Mr. Um said. “Timing change commentary, if related to Apple, could suggest some limit to volumes if launched in September (the increasingly likely scenario) or a launch in the October timeframe (which is what we forecast in our model), though we also note that it’s possible that the impact from new program ramp delays could be due to non-Apple customers.”

Rumors that Apple is planning a September 12 media event to introduce the next iPhone along with a smaller form factor iPad surfaced at the beginning of the week, along with reports that the new iPhone model would ship on September 21.

Following those reports, Mr. Um said, “Given our anticipation for an October launch, a September launch time frame would be ahead of schedule and likely result in upside to our current September quarter forecasts.”

While a September iPhone launch would make consumers that have been waiting for the next model to ship happy, it could also mean very limited availability at first — assuming MFLEX will be ramping up parts production for Apple after September.

Despite the potential for product constraints, Mr. Um still sees Apple selling plenty of its iOS devices. “We are expecting iPhone unit sales of roughly 22.5 million and 42 million in September and December quarters, respectively. We are modeling iPad unit sales of 18.5 million and 19.2 million for the September and December quarters,” he said.

Mr. Um has an “Outperform” rating and a US$640- $660 target range for Apple’s stock. Apple is currently trading at $617.26, up 9.47 (1.56%).