Apple CEO Cook Says China Will Overtake U.S. as Biggest Market

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Emily Chang reports on discussed "cooperation" between Apple and China. She speaks on Bloomberg Television's "Bloomberg West." (Source: Bloomberg)

Apple Inc. (AAPL) Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said China will overtake the U.S. to become its largest market, as the iPhone-maker adds more stores and considers debuting new products in the country.

“I believe it will become our first,” Cook said in an interview with state-owned Xinhua News yesterday. No timeframe was given for the prediction. The Cupertino, California-based company had $5.7 billion of sales in China during the quarter ended September. U.S. revenue was about $14.4 billion, based on figures in an Oct. 25 earnings statement.

Cook also met the chairman of China Mobile Ltd. (941) while in the country, as he seeks to boost cooperation with a wireless operator that has 707 million customers and no agreement to sell iPhones. The CEO is making his second visit to the country in less than a year as Apple tries to reverse its shrinking share of the local smartphone market.

Apple intends to open “many more” outlets in China over the next several years, Cook said in the Xinhua interview. The company now has 11 stores in China and Hong Kong.

Cook also said he would also “love” to introduce new products in China first, according to the report. The iPhone 5 was released in China in December, almost three months after the U.S. introduction.

China Growth

The company’s growth in the world’s most populous nation has been limited by it only working with smaller carriers and competition from domestic phone-makers. Its share of the nation’s smartphone market slipped to sixth from fourth in the third quarter, according to researcher IDC.

Yesterday, Cook met with Xi Guohua, the chairman on China Mobile at the carrier’s headquarters in Beijing. The two discussed “cooperation,” according to a statement from China Mobile, the world’s largest wireless operator by subscribers. It didn’t elaborate.

China Mobile, which accounts for 64 percent of the nation’s mobile users, said last month that it needs to reach agreements on benefit-sharing with Apple before it can begin offering iPhones. The operator also has a homegrown third-generation network that isn’t used by other carriers.

Apple distributes iPhone with the nation’s second- and third-largest carriers: China Unicom (Hong Kong) Ltd. (762) and China Telecom Corp. (728)

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Edmond Lococo in Beijing at elococo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Tighe at mtighe4@bloomberg.net

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Apple intends to open “many more” outlets in China over the next several years, Cook said in the Xinhua interview.

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Photographer: Daniel J. Groshong/Bloomberg

Apple intends to open “many more” outlets in China over the next several years, Cook said in the Xinhua interview. Close

Apple intends to open “many more” outlets in China over the next several years, Cook said in the Xinhua interview.

Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Pedestrians walks past an Apple Inc. store in Beijing, China. Apple intends to open “many more” outlets in China over the next several years, Cook said in the Xinhua interview. The company now has 11 stores in China and Hong Kong. Close

Pedestrians walks past an Apple Inc. store in Beijing, China. Apple intends to open “many more” outlets in China over... Read More

Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

A worker walks past the Apple Inc. logo in the Sanlitun area of Beijing, China. Close

A worker walks past the Apple Inc. logo in the Sanlitun area of Beijing, China.

Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

Xi Guohua, chairman of China Mobile Ltd. Close

Xi Guohua, chairman of China Mobile Ltd.

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