Apple Inc. is close to a deal with China Mobile Ltd. to sell its iPhones through the world’s largest carrier, said a person with knowledge of the matter.
The Cupertino, California-based company is preparing to ship iPhones to China Mobile, said the person, who asked not be identified because the discussions are private. A deal with China Mobile won’t be announced at an Apple event on Sept. 10, during which the company is set to unveil new iPhones, said the person.
An agreement with China Mobile, which has 63 percent of the country’s 1.19 billion wireless accounts, could rev up Apple’s slowing sales growth. China is one of the company’s largest markets, yet sales there fell 14 percent last quarter as new local smartphone vendors have taken market share by offering lower-cost alternatives to the iPhone.
Apple is attempting to remove the last remaining holdouts for selling the iPhone. The company also is near an agreement with NTT DoCoMo Inc., Japan’s largest carrier, which also hasn’t offered the iPhone on its network. DoCoMo has about 62 million wireless subscribers, while China Mobile has about 740 million subscribers, according to data released by the carriers.
Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment.
Rainie Lei, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for China Mobile, didn’t immediately return a message left on her mobile phone outside of normal business hours. Zhang Xuan, a Beijing-based spokesman for parent company China Mobile Communications, didn’t answer calls to his mobile or office numbers outside of normal business hours.
Adding the carriers gives Apple a new bank of customers to reach as it faces slowing sales and profit growth. The iPhone maker is grappling with increasing competition from Samsung Electronics Co. and other manufacturers of lower-cost smartphones.
Apple is holding a viewing of its iPhone event next week in Beijing for the first time. The company is introducing a lower-cost iPhone on Sept. 10 that’s slated to be available to China Mobile customers, the person said. Apple generated about $25 billion in China over the past four quarters.
“China is a huge opportunity for Apple,” Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in July.
Apple rose less than 1 percent to $498.22 today in New York. The shares have slid 6.4 percent so far this year, compared with a 16 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
The Wall Street Journal earlier reported that Apple was preparing to ship iPhones to China Mobile.