iPad 2 and iPhone 4 shortages expected in wake of Japan earthquake, tsunami

Two of Apple’s component suppliers, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co and Toshiba, have reportedly shut down some of their operations in Japan in the wake of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. According to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, this could result in shortages of Apple’s iPad 2 and iPhone 4 in March, through the rest of the first quarter, and into June. Toshiba manufactures 40% of the world’s flash memory, and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co is believed to be Apple’s go-to company for BT resin — which is used on circuit boards. Munster says Apple’s strategy to buy from multiple component suppliers could help soften the blow. “This strategy has proven to be an effective way for Apple to leverage its balance sheet and its position as one of the largest buyers of many of the components it uses; moreover, this strategy may prove particularly helpful if supply is limited and pricing increases,” wrote Munster. “Finally, we believe Apple buys futures on important components, which will help offset near-term pricing swings. Our conclusion is that Apple is well positioned to suffer proportionally less than its competitors.” Apple’s stock traded down sharply yesterday on the news of an analyst downgrade and potential supply shortages.

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