Apple Inc. plans to more than double the number of stores it operates in the Greater China region in the next two years.
The number of outlets will increase to 40 in the region, which includes the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, from 15 now, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said in an interview that was translated into Chinese and published live by Sina Corp.
Apple opened its first China store in Beijing’s Sanlitun district in 2008 and the maker of iPhones has since added 14 others in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuxi, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The China region accounted for about $5.8 billion of sales, or 14 percent of Apple’s total revenue, in the three months ended Sept. 27.
China is very important to Apple and the company will continue to invest in the country, Cook said in the interview, which Sina published without providing his original English remarks. It is only a matter of time before China becomes Apple’s largest market by sales, Cook said.
The company released the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in China on Oct. 17. Cook didn’t provide details on sales in the transcript published by Sina.
Demand in China has “been really off the charts, it’s been really, really good,” Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said earlier this month.
Cook’s interview with local media followed a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai, during which they discussed user data safety, and a visit to Foxconn Technology Group facilities in Zhengzhou, where the iPhone 6 is made.
At Foxconn, Cook met workers on the iPhone 6 assembly line, he said in a post today to his verified Twitter account. The meeting with iPhone 6 workers was “an early highlight of this trip,” Cook said.
Cook said he will meet with billionaire Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., on Oct. 27.
Carolyn Wu, a Beijing-based Apple spokeswoman, said she didn’t immediately have a full English transcript available of Cook’s remarks. She confirmed the accuracy of the key points of the Sina interview, including the store forecast and Cook’s planned meeting with Ma.
Cook’s latest forecast is also almost double a projection he made in April 2013, when he said the company would increase the number of stores to 22 by 2015 from the 11 that were open at the time.
— With assistance by Edmond Lococo