Tim Cook takes wait-and-see attitude toward constantly changing coronavirus; ‘reason for optimism, but we’ll see’

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Apple CEO Tim Cook is optimistic about Apple’s future
CEO Tim Cook says “Apple is fundamentally strong.”
Photo: Fox Business

CEO Tim Cook promises Apple is fundamentally strong and will weather the problems resulting from the coronavirus spreading around the world. He says his focus isn’t on short-term changes in Apple’s share price, despite a recent significant drop.

In a wide-ranging interview with Fox Business recorded Thursday in Birmingham, Alabama, Cook also discussed whether his company will move more device production out of China, and his relationship with President Donald Trump.

Coronavirus outbreak is ‘a temporary condition’

In the interview, Cook assured Fox Business‘ Susan Li that the coronavirus won’t affect Apple over the long haul. “I think this is a temporary condition. Not a long-term kind of thing. Apple is fundamentally strong,” he said.

Apple already warned that it won’t take in as much revenue during the first quarter as initially predicted due to the emerging disease’s effects. And Cook wouldn’t get specific about how the epidemic will weigh on Apple in the second quarter of this year. “We’re still in February and you know there’s [a] reason for optimism, but we’ll see,” he said.

Cook also shrugged off Apple’s recent drop in stock price. “I don’t really focus on the short-term gyrations of the market,” he said. “I think, for me, in the way we run the company, we work for the long term. And I see no long-term difference between what was happening four weeks ago versus what’s happening today.”

AAPL shares dropped another 6% since the interview.

Coronavirus probably won’t bring fundamental changes to Apple’s supply chain

When Li asked if the coronavirus outbreak in China caused Apple to consider moving more of its supply chain out of China, Cook said, “My perspective sitting here today is that if there are changes, we’re talking about adjusting some knobs and not some sort of wholesale fundamental change.”

He pointed out that iPhone, Mac, iPad, etc., assembly happens in China not because Apple can get the work done there cheaply. Assembly plants in other countries would need to match a laundry list of requirements before Apple would consider replacing a Chinese plant. “For us, we’re not really fixated on cost only,” Cook said. “Cost is one factor, clearly, but we’re also focused — we’re fixated on quality. And we’re focused on time-to-market, and the speed, and the depth of engineering in the different places. And so somebody would have to meet all of those in order for us to do something.”

Cook says the company’s current supply chain can handle the disruption caused by the coronavirus epidemic. It’s met other challenges over the years. “We’ve worked through earthquakes, tornadoes, fires, floods, tsunamis, SARS,” he said.

Tim Cook’s relationship with Trump

Apple’s CEO has a strong working relationship with Trump, despite the two men disagreeing on a wide variety of fundamental topics, like immigration and tariffs.

Cook told Fox Business how he makes it work. “Well, there are differences, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “But you look for intersections. And I care a lot about creating jobs. And I think the president does as well. I care a lot about training the workforce for the future, and the administration is really focused on this as well.”

Tim Cook’s full interview with Fox Business is available on YouTube: