Pegatron

About that Bloomberg report of 'falling iPad mini demand'

May 9, 2013: 8:50 AM ET

The CEO of a key Apple supplier says the reporter tried to put those words in his mouth.

Bloomberg's NYC headquarters.

Bloomberg's NYC headquarters.

FORTUNE -- Most Asian journalists covering Pegatron's investor conference Wednesday focused on the fact that the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer's first quarter profits were up more than 80% year over year.

The theme of Thursday's second-day headlines in the U.S. was that Pegatron is on a hiring spree, boosting its workforce 40% and anticipating that communications products would drive revenue increases in the second half of 2013 -- all of which somehow fueled speculation that the company might be building a lower-cost iPhone for Apple (AAPL).

But Bloomberg's Tim Culpan came away from Wednesday's conference with a different story, one with an anti-Apple slant that got widely picked up. (See here, herehere and here.)

Focusing on the fact that after growing 162% year over year in Q1 Pegatron's revenues from consumer electronics were expected to fall 25% to 30% sequentially in Q2, he set out to pin the blame on the iPad mini.

His headline: Falling IPad Mini Demand to Push Pegatron Electronics Sales Down
His lead: "Pegatron Corp., the Taipei-based maker of Apple Inc. devices, forecast its biggest drop in consumer-electronics revenue in six quarters as iPad Mini demand falls." (emphasis mine)
His killer quote: "A decline in revenue from the iPad Mini 'is more on demand, while price has been stable,' Pegatron Chief Executive Officer Jason Cheng said."

Now it could well be that after rising 65% year over year last quarter, demand for one or more iPad products might be slowing.

But two things about that quote immediately raised suspicions.

First, the phrase about a decline in iPad mini revenue is not in quotation marks, suggesting that it came from the reporter, not the source.

Second, have you ever known an Apple supplier to say anything on the record about demand for any of Apple's products? Not if he or she wants to keep doing business with Tim Cook.

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Pegatron's Cheng. Photo: Michael Lee.

To get to the bottom of the story, I asked Pegatron CEO Jason Cheng by e-mail about that quote. Here's what he said:

"We held our Institutional Investors Conference yesterday, and gave out a guidance of our 2Q13 business outlook... The category of Consumer Electronic Product includes game consoles, LCD-TV, e-paper readers, tablet products, and some others. We put all tablet products in this category, but have never broken down to detail numbers for specific products nor customers.

"After the meeting, one reporter from Bloomberg approached me, trying to dig out detail numbers about some specific product. I clearly refused to comment on specific products, nor customers, even though he continued with other questions. I did say those words that he quotes me in the article "more on demand, while price has been stable"…, "almost every item is moving in a negative direction"…; "Not just tablets, also e-books and games consoles". But I did not say anything associated with any specific products.

"'No indication, nor hint for specific products or customers' has been our principle and guideline for any public events such as investors conference. There are always speculations after these meetings.

"Thank you for the mail to clarify."

I've asked Bloomberg's Tim Culpan and his editor for their comment. No reply yet.

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