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Tim Cook visits Singapore amid Apple's Southeast Asia expansion

by SuperiorInvest

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook, center, arrives at the Apple Developer Academy at Binus University in Tangerang, Banten, Indonesia, Wednesday, April 17, 2024.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | fake images

apple Tim Cook is in Singapore for the latest leg of his whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia as the chief executive pivots to the region to expand and boost sales amid struggles in China.

Cook confirmed his arrival in Singapore on his official X account (formerly known as Twitter) on Thursday, posting a video of himself with a local photographer at the city's famous Gardens by the Bay tourist attraction.

According to anonymous sources cited in a Bloomberg report, Cook's visit will last until Friday and will include a meeting with the city-state's next prime minister, Lawrence Wong, as well as incumbent Lee Hsien Loong. Lee will formally step down on May 15 after 20 years as head of government. Wong will become Singapore's fourth prime minister.

Cook's arrival in the city follows Apple's announcement of its plans to invest more than $250 million in its Singapore operations. While the tech giant already employs 3,600 people in the country, Apple said the expansion will provide room for new roles, including in artificial intelligence.

The country serves as a regional hub for the Cupertino, California-based tech giant, with critical roles in software, hardware, services and support, the company said.

The meeting with the prime minister is expected to conclude Cook's tour of Southeast Asia, in which the CEO made stops in Vietnam to meet with Apple developers and users, and in Indonesia, where he met with President Joko Widodo.

Bloomberg reported that Cook's schedule was packed with public activities to generate interest in the brand, which could pave the way for a more aggressive regional sales campaign.

Apple did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment on Cook's itinerary.

This year, the company launched an online Apple Store in Vietnam and has reportedly been hiring for its first retail center in Malaysia.

Increased business in Southeast Asia could help offset recent headwinds for the company. Figures released Monday by the International Data Corporation showed that global iPhone shipments fell 10% from a year earlier in the first quarter amid increased competition in China.

Smartphone sales in China, Apple's largest overseas market, have also been calm compared to Southeast Asia, where sales were booming at the beginning of the year.

The region's phone market is expected to grow 7% year-over-year in 2024, much faster than the rest of the world's 3% rate, according to Canalys data.

Cook has also used his recent travels to highlight Southeast Asia as an important manufacturing center.

The company has pushed to diversify its supply chain beyond its China base since 2022, when it experienced pandemic-related supply disruptions.

Vietnam has already become a key manufacturing location amid diversification efforts. Meanwhile, Cook said Wednesday that the company will “consider” manufacturing in Indonesia.

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