Deja vu: Foxconn chair says Apple's stuff is hard to make

November 7, 2012: 2:15 PM ET

For the second time in two years, Terry Gou's complaints make headlines

Source: Techmeme

FORTUNE -- Okay. I've read most of the 22 stories posted on Techmeme Wednesday morning repeating -- with little or no commentary -- Reuters' account of Foxconn chairman Terry Gou's remarks to reporters after a business forum in Taipei, Taiwan.

"It's not easy to make the iPhones," Gou said, according to Reuters. "We are falling short of meeting the huge demand."

It was that last bit -- about falling short of meeting demand -- that helped drive Apple (AAPL) shares down more than $24 (4.2%) Wednesday.

Fair enough. The number of  iPhones Apple will be able to deliver to customers by Christmas will have a material effect on the company's quarterly earnings.

What surprised me is that none of these 22 reporters seem to remember that this is not first time Gou has used this excuse for his company's shortcomings.

In June 2010, at a shareholder's meeting after Hon Hai (which owns Foxconn) posted two quarters of declining profits and cut its long-term sales forecast in half, Gou offered a similar excuse: Apple's devices, he said, are "very difficult to make."

But he added, according to Bloomberg, that it was worth the effort to learn how to do it more efficiently.

"We've helped Apple make a lot of money," Gou said. "If our customers make money, then we can also make money. I most fear customers that don't make money."

By the fall of 2011, Foxconn was turning out iPhones and iPads by the tens of millions and Apple was able to record December quarter earnings that exceeded everybody's expectations.

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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