Apple's Tim Cook appeared on CNBC's Mad Money today, where the CEO talked with host Jim Cramer at-length about a variety of topics ranging from China, India, the company's Q2 earnings and much more. Given the interview's timing —just a week following Apple's Q2 2016 earnings — Wall Street's reaction to the first-ever drop in year-over-year iPhone sales was quick to come up. Cook was quick to nip criticism of the company's performance in the bud, noting that negative responses to the earnings are an overreaction to what was still a fantastic quarter for the company.
Yeah, I think that is a huge over reaction look we just had actually an incredible quarter by absolute standards 50 billion plus in revenues and 10 billion in profits. To put that in perspective the 10 billion is more than any other company makes so it was a pretty good quarter but not up to the Street's expectations clearly. What we're seeing is that people are upgrading at a different rate a lower rate than they did last year but still higher than the year before so we had this abnormally high upgrade rate last year as people bought into the iPhone 6 and now we are comparing to that along with the other things going on that many companies are facing with currency rates and macro economics, etc. But the most important thing is that customers love our products and they are using them and the satisfaction has never been higher and the loyalty rates have never been higher. And that is what is really important for us. That's the most important thing for the long term of Apple.
Cook also defended criticism of Apple's performance in China, which was also a noted sore point for some in the company's recent earnings report. Specifically, Cook cites the massive growth Apple has seen in the country in recent years, while also pointing to the Android switch rate in the country as a positive:
Well, here's what we see going on in China in the short-term. In the short-term, the iPhone upgrade rate affects all countries including China. The great thing is, the switcher rate in China is huge. 40% up over the first half of last year, the first half of this year. This is huge. So these are people switching from Android smartphones to iPhone in China. Economy, clearly not as strong as it was a year ago. Softening. Currency weakening. And so you've got a confluence of items in there, some that are Apple-specific like the upgrade thing that we talked about, some things that are more general that affect everyone. However, here's the way I look at it. Two years ago we had enormous sales. And so last year and last year we did even better, 80% better. So we grew 80% over the previous year. This year in constant currency in mainland China, we were down 7. So if you look at it on a two-year basis, Apple grew 70% in China. It's hard-pressed to say those aren't good results.
Cook was also bullish on India's potential as a developing market, noting that the country presents a huge growth opportunity for Apple as LTE coverage rolls out across the country. Services were also a bright spot for the company in its second quarter, and Cook went on to highlight that part of its business as a huge area for growth as Apple continues to appeal to loyal users with service offerings like iCloud and Apple Music.
We'll update this post with a video of the interview once it's available. However, if you'd like to read through the full transcript from CNBC, you can do so below.
JIM CRAMER: Tonight we got an incredible opportunity to check in with Tim Cook the CEO of Apple himself to get a better sense of how his company is doing and where it is headed Mr. Cook welcome back to Mad Money.
TIM COOK: Thank you for inviting me it is great to be here.
JIM CRAMER: Tim there's a curious really strange disconnect between what I read and hear on Wall Street about Apple and this because it is going to be an impossibility to pry this from me. Cold dead hand time. You can't. And yet when I read the stories it seems like people think that it is over. How could it be that you can't have this ever or the ecosystem but it is dead?
TIM COOK: Yeah, I think that is a huge over reaction look we just had actually an incredible quarter by absolute standards 50 billion plus in revenues and 10 billion in profits. To put that in perspective the 10 billion is more than any other company makes so it was a pretty good quarter but not up to the Street's expectations clearly. What we're seeing is that people are upgrading at a different rate a lower rate than they did last year but still higher than the year before so we had this abnormally high upgrade rate last year as people bought into the iPhone 6 and now we are comparing to that along with the other things going on that many companies are facing with currency rates and macro economics, etc. But the most important thing is that customers love our products and they are using them and the satisfaction has never been higher and the loyalty rates have never been higher. And that is what is really important for us. That's the most important thing for the long term of Apple.
JIM CRAMER: Let's talk about shorter term that has captivated the narrative. Tony Sanguinetti good analyst on your call all the time tells the New York Times there's no question that Apple's best days are behind it the company grew at astronomical rates and it is now so big that its ability to grow at these rates doesn't exist anymore. There's an obituary.
TIM COOK: Yeah, I couldn't disagree more. Here's what I see. We are in some incredible markets the smartphone market eventually everyone in the world will have a smartphone. Penetration today is in the 40s a long way to go. Emerging markets like India LTE penetration is zero we've got great innovation in the pipeline new iPhones that will incent you and other people that have iPhones today to upgrade to new iPhones.
JIM CRAMER: I will need something else?
TIM COOK: You will need something else.
JIM CRAMER: I can't think of something else that I need.
TIM COOK: But we are going to give you thinks that you can't live without that you just don't know you need today.
JIM CRAMER: Ok that's what I want.
TIM COOK: That has always been the objective of Apple. To do things that really enrich people's lives. That you look back on and you wonder how did I live without this.
JIM CRAMER: Why is the story not talked about nearly as much that this is also a service. It is viewed as a device. You are a hardware company verses what we know other than the Netflix bill maybe the Amazon bill you can put things on this whether it be my music I have the family plan because I have a lot of pictures and I do the iCloud backup the Apple Pay why do people not talk about the fact that this is not a dead device it is something that we belong to.
TIM COOK: I think in fairness we didn't talk about it a lot until recently and so I take that. As you say, services now is the second largest revenue segment at Apple. It was for last quarter it was for the first half of the year as far as that goes. And so last quarter we were at 6 billion up 20%. It is fast growing. You look at what it is it is things like the app store you go and you buy apps far after the sale. You might have subscribe to Apple Music. You might use Apple pay you might buy songs you might rent movies and so it is all of these things and it really adds up. And that of course is based on how many people are using our devices how many devices out there and there's over a billion devices in use. This is huge.
JIM CRAMER: See because I – exactly. I figure when it gets to 1.5 billion. Some – there's a number where we will be thinking of the average use each month and the average paid to you. It's not there yet. In the interim what defines the story would be that China's fallen off. That China, which you said in the previous quarter was going pretty good. But the beginning of this last month of the last quarter was not that good, has now become – clouded out everything else. Right? Wrong? Should be? Shouldn't? You've talked endlessly about China, middle class vacation. What's happening there and how did it happen so fast that many didn't see it coming?
TIM COOK: Well, here's what we see going on in China in the short-term. In the short-term, the iPhone upgrade rate affects all countries including China. The great thing is, the switcher rate in China is huge. 40% up over the first half of last year, the first half of this year. This is huge. So these are people switching from Android smartphones to iPhone in China. Economy, clearly not as strong as it was a year ago. Softening. Currency weakening. And so you've got a confluence of items in there, some that are Apple-specific like the upgrade thing that we talked about, some things that are more general that affect everyone. However, here's the way I look at it. Two years ago we had enormous sales. And so last year and last year we did even better, 80% better. So we grew 80% over the previous year. This year in constant currency in mainland China, we were down 7. So if you look at it on a two-year basis, Apple grew 70% in China. It's hard-pressed to say those aren't good results.
JIM CRAMER: Ok. I want to stay on China for a second because the first leg down on the stock last week was because your guidance. Second leg down was a man, Carl Icahn, who had been closely affiliated talking about a no-brainer Apple, who says, "Look, China's an issue." Now, he sold before we knew anything about the China State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television blocking Apple iBooks and iTunes movies, but was concerned, at least ostensibly, about China. So then, and I look at the different components of China, yes, upgrade. But how about White Box? How about the fact that there is an encroachment issue at the lower end? And is that something that could've slowed Apple sales down?
TIM COOK: No. I think what you see in China in general is the smartphone industry isn't growing. There's movement between different suppliers of smartphone. But I think in the areas that we play we're doing quite well. And in the last month, I'm thrilled at what we've seen with the iPhone SE launch that's been there. This is the phone that we just shipped that packages a whole bunch of our technology from iPhone 6S into the four-inch form factor. And so that looks very strong. In terms of the books and movies, what you're talking about is that we did offer books and movies. Currently we're offline. And we're, what I can tell you there is we are working with the relevant government agencies and other businesses and we're pretty confident and optimistic that we'll be back online and offering those to our Chinese customers soon.
JIM CRAMER: Okay. So the idea that perhaps a large hedge fund investor months out is quite different from the notion of, if someone just bought it and owned it rather than looking at their quarter to quarter, probably a better way to look at Apple over the long-term?
TIM COOK: Yeah. I think from a long-term point of view – let's go back to China for a minute because I think this is important. Here's what I see in China – we see in China, is the middle class there is booming. And so you look back just five years ago, there were about 50 million people in the Chinese middle class. Five years from now that number's going to be almost 500 million. I mean, this is an unprecedented growth of the middle class.
JIM CRAMER: But you left that out this quarter. On the conference call, I parsed every word of your last few conference calls. You did not talk about middle class classification, which then made us feel that something was wrong?
TIM COOK: No. No, I – then it was my error for not talking about it. I am – I could not be more optimistic about China. I think the long-term thesis is intact, there has never been anything like it in the history of the world. And I'm still as optimistic as I've ever been.
JIM CRAMER: India, obviously, brand new iteration. Finally LTE, people at home should know. Finally a system that could be – that can use your great phones. Inning one, inning half, lots of people?
TIM COOK: Yeah, let's talk about this. This is another huge one. India will be the most populous country in the world in 2022. India today has about 50% of their population at 25 years of age or younger. It's a very young country. People really want smartphones there, really want smartphones. And this year, the first year, LTE begins to roll out. And so many of your viewers here in the United States, they're used to using LTE and streaming video. And hopefully they're getting a good experience there. In India you can't do that long – there is no LTE. And so that's changing. Huge market potential.
JIM CRAMER: Okay, let's stay right there. I'm going to come back after the break when my interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook continues. Stick with Cramer.
JIM CRAMER: Welcome back. We're here with Apple CEO Tim Cook. Tim, want to talk about the stock a little bit. It is "Mad Money." Huge buyback. Lot of people saying, "Well, wait, they keep buying back one-fifth of the company." But what has it done? Your stock is down below where you bought the average amount, you know, much higher price. Is it a waste versus innovation? Or is it not really a tradeoff?
TIM COOK: It's not a tradeoff, is the answer to that. We first look at all the money that we need to invest in the company, in R&D, in stores, in the supply chain. All of the areas we need to do including M&A. And we take the money that's leftover if we have some, and we do at this point, and we give it back to our shareholders. And we do that in terms of dividends and buybacks. And so if you look at dividends we just raised it for the – every year. Every year since the beginning. We raised it to $0.57 this time and we're very happy to give that to our shareholders. And on the buyback side, we're – I didn't see how the stocked performed today, but we were still below – the last time I looked, we were still below the average that we pay. And we tend to be opportunistic in buying it. And so we don't have some regimented program that, you know, is X shares a day or whatever.
JIM CRAMER: But if you talk about macro headwinds, dominant on the theme – on the conference call – difficult compares – dominant. Currency, no new iteration yet, why not wait? What's the urgency? If you're going to be opportunistic wouldn't that say, "Let all the negativity come out. Let all these hedge funds blow it out and then we'll make a statement?"
TIM COOK: Well, opportunistic to me means you buy it when you think the company's undervalued, and we believe the company's undervalued.
JIM CRAMER: Fair enough. Now, how do you know – let's talk about the mindset. Because the mindset's not based on – they're not lunatics who make up these things. They don't believe best day ahead, they believe that the pause in growth is not a pause. But they're looking at Microsoft under Bill Gates and then goes to Steve Ballmer. They're looking at Hewlett and Packard and thinking, "Well, whatever happened to that?" They're looking at Andy Grove, Gordon Moore and they're thinking Intel. And they're saying, "Well, these guys were all fabulous. And then the next thing you know, I mean, they're selling at nine times earnings like Tim Cook. And what, so when you're down at nine times earnings what that says is, 'It's over.'"
TIM COOK: Let's back up for a minute. Let's take a step back and let's look at, how did we do in this quarter, or the first half or whatever. And what you would find is $50 billion and $10 billion profit. No one else is earning anywhere near this. Last year, we earned $53 billion in profits. And I think the number two company was 24. And so we're doing pretty good.
JIM CRAMER: No one's – right. But that is important.
TIM COOK: And by the way, we did also – we did what we said we would do. We said the revenues would be between $50 and $53, we came in at $50.6. We said margins would be 39% to 39.5%; we came in at 39.4%. But the real answer to your question is that the thing that is different is that customers love Apple products.
JIM CRAMER: Customers didn't like any of those companies.
TIM COOK: And the relationship with Apple doesn't stop when you buy an iPhone. It continues. You might buy apps across the App Store, you might subscribe to Apple Music. You might use iCloud to buy additional storage. You might buy songs, you might rent movies. And so there's a significant number of things. You might use ApplePay every day now, or at least several times a week. And so that relationship continues. And because our customer loyalty is so high, the likelihood that somebody upgrades to another Apple iPhone in this particular case, is really great.
JIM CRAMER: Okay. So let's talk about innovation and that revenue stream. You've said over and over again, "Can't buy innovation," because that's in your DNA. Why bother to buy someone else's which won't be as good? But at the same time you have this service team you just mentioned. You said that you want to do M&A, even bigger deals where you are most excited. I listened to you today right here. It seems like you're most excited about services. Is that where M&A can come? Because why not put it through this new 1.5 potential device channel?
TIM COOK: Yeah. Could it come in services? Yes, and we've bought some companies to help us in services. But it can also come in a number of other areas. We're barely acquisitive. We haven't acquired a very large company yet, but we've acquired a lot of companies. We generally acquire a company every three to four weeks on average. And so it's a rare month that there's not a company being bought. We typically buy for technology and really great people. And but you know, we'll see. We're always looking.
JIM CRAMER: Now, when we talk about innovation there – again, I don't want to beat the dead horse, but you know the rap. The rap is, "They're not innovating." And yet we find ourselves wanting to buy the new iteration. I mean, you are a surprise company. It would be ridiculous for you to talk about what's going to be in the 7 because I – it's a statement and it's also a play. It's a drama. There's drama at Apple. There's no drama to Intel. I mean, there was never any drama to Hewlett Packard. How important is drama to you? Because I also happen to know that you're a thoughtful guy who likes literature, likes movies, likes TV. And you like an arc.
TIM COOK: Yeah. We don't talk about futures as a company. As you say we're fairly secretive. We don't talk about products that are in the roadmap. But I would tell you that we're incredibly excited about things we're working on. Incredibly excited. And so I don't want to be more specific than that. But I think that the other thing maybe that's worth pointing out is, if you kind of look at all the things Apple has done over time, at the time they were done they were rarely ever seen like they were in retrospect.
JIM CRAMER: Well, this bust. You talk about the bust of the phone – of the watch?
TIM COOK: I think the watch would be like that, too. Because if you look at iPod, iPod wasn't viewed as a success, but today it's viewed as an overnight success. The iPhone was the same way. People were writing about there's no physical keyboard. Obviously nobody would want it. And so I think that in a few years we will look back and people will say, "How could I have ever thought about not wearing this watch?" Because it's doing so much for you. And then it will all of a sudden be an overnight success.
JIM CRAMER: But then I went to the second letter that Icahn sent you about doing a buy back. By the way, that was in the mid 120's. It was obviously, in retrospect, a trader, I think, saying, "This is the time to buy." But he talked about 20 million watches and then 40 million watches. When we see these things in fiscal year 2016, we see these things we say, "How did they get them?" I just want to make it clear, it is not your guidance. You never talked about numbers like 20 million and 40 million, right?
TIM COOK: Never.
JIM CRAMER: That is just other people running with the ball. And why do they run with it when you say, "Listen, we're not making any projections like that?"
TIM COOK: I don't know. The way that we look at the watch, though, we were – our first goal is to establish a new category. Smartwatch category wasn't really established, so we needed to establish the category. And we wanted to roll out slowly. Well, today, to put it in perspective, you can buy Apple Watch in 14,000 locations. You can buy the iPhone at over 200,000. And so we're still in learning mode. We're learning fairly quickly, though. We know a lot more than we did a year ago. And you'll see the Apple Watch getting better and better.
JIM CRAMER: Okay. Just for this last series of questions, I do need to talk about size. There is a – we can use baseball analogies, we can use football, whatever. But we need to know where you think we are versus this notion of the first question on the conference call. It's about now you're a value stock. And I'm thinking, "You know what? I don't like to think value versus growth." I like to think what – where we are in a cycle, total adjustable market. Where do you think we are China, India, worldwide, developed, not developed. In terms of the need to have this and the need to upgrade?
TIM COOK: Yeah, let's talk about smartphone first – iPhone. What I see is that countries like India, no LTE, so 0% penetration. They are selling smartphones, and we sell iPhone there. But arguably you can't get the full value from it.
JIM CRAMER: And it's Mom and Pops that you buy it from, it's not a—
TIM COOK: Yes, because the retailers are not huge national kind of retailers. And the carriers don't sell phones in India. So there's a lot of work to do. But last quarter we grew 56% in India on iPhone units. So this is pretty big. Overall, macro worldwide, smartphone penetration is in the 40s. And that's IDC kind of numbers –
JIM CRAMER: Why does Wall Street think 40s is done? Meaning 40% is – what point of the conference call – honestly Tim, I'm looking at all the calls. 40 is 80 to these people, 40% means 80. Because they're looking at developed world, they're saying, "Well, wait a second, developed world's moving much further." No one uses your numbers, by the way, which is really kind of odd because you are the CEO. But I repeatedly get the sense that people say, "Developed is finished and emerging isn't going to be your – ." I don't know why either – I just need to refute this.
TIM COOK: Yeah. Well, here's what I would say to that, is I heard the same thing about China. And our revenues from China were larger than any other foreign company. In greater China last year revenues were $58 billion. And so we do know something about emerging markets. And you know, it turns out that people in every country in the world there's a segment of buyer that wants the best product and the best experience. And that's what we're about providing. And we did fairly well in China, we've done fairly well. And despite the short-term turbulence here, we're doing fairly well now—
JIM CRAMER: But you're saying short-term turbulence, they will – they are upgrades, start again –
TIM COOK: Middle class is huge. And now we're really putting energy in India as well. And there are other markets in the world where I think that people sitting here in this country look at it through just a lens of what's happening in the United States. And but there are a lot of people in the world who don't have the pleasure of owning an iPhone yet. And now, the second thing I would point out is the number of switchers that we – switchers are people that were using an Android phone, they switched to an iPhone. Largest ever in the last six months. So despite overall iPhone sales declining, led by the upgrade that we talked about, switchers hitting new records. In China switchers were up 40% from the first half of last year to the first half of this year. And so switchers we feel great about, that's really important. Because what that says is, the market doesn't need to be growing hugely for Apple to grow. Because our share is you know, relatively speaking, in many markets, low. And if we can get switchers over, we can grow.
JIM CRAMER: Okay. Well, if that's the case then I want to know whether you think Wall Street, I know you care about it, is dead wrong. Because Wall Street looks at it by the four walls of the spreadsheet. "Okay, 9.22 going to 8.40. Who knows? Maybe go back to 9.0, $9.10." Remember, they're just looking at it and they're making the judgment that only – that stocks lose their multiple – lose the price earnings multiple – if you can't get the numbers up. And they're saying, "You're not giving us any window when you will. You already said this next quarter is not going to be that good. Why should we buy?" I mean, in the end it's a little bit binary to them. "Why should we buy when we know that stocks that have this trajectory have historically hurt us?"
TIM COOK: Yeah. I think Wall Street is a collection of people, right? And so there are many different viewpoints in there. And I'm not sure there is a common one. I mean, that's the beauty of the street, is there's a diverse group of thoughts. But in terms of what we think, which is what I can really attest to, we're reasonably good at estimating what we think we're going to do. I'm not saying we've always been right or always will be right. But I think if you look back versus our guidance, we're pretty good with that.
JIM CRAMER: No, you're –
TIM COOK: We're really good with it.
JIM CRAMER: Yes. And that's why the – that's why this quarter there's a misperception that it was a miss. It was exactly what you were looking for. And next quarter is down. But I'm just saying, last question, but
TIM COOK: But over a long –
JIM CRAMER: Do I have any confidence that the last quarter of this fiscal year is going to be up?
TIM COOK: At the last quarter, I'm not projecting quarter by quarter. But what I can tell you is, backing up and looking at the larger picture, we're in great markets. We have huge opportunities geographically. We've got great innovations in the pipeline. People love our products, they love using our services. All of this to me equals great opportunity. Now, your viewers have to decide what they want to do obviously. But this is how I feel and that's what I can attest to.
JIM CRAMER: You know, I say don't trade it, own it. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. Thank you so much, sir.
TIM COOK: Thank you. Great seeing you, Jim.
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