iPhone-maker Foxconn approved to reopen China factories amid coronavirus outbreak

A top iPhone manufacturer reopened one key factory in China and won approval to reopen another amid concerns that the coronavirus outbreak could dent Apple’s smartphone sales, according to a new report.

Electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn partially restarted production at its plant in Zhengzhou on Monday after an extended Lunar New Year holiday, Reuters reported. But only about 10 percent of the workforce — or about 16,000 people — were reportedly able to return to their jobs.

The Chinese government also gave Foxconn the OK to reopen its factory in the southern city of Shenzhen, according to Reuters. The two plants contain most of Foxconn’s iPhone assembly lines, the news agency said.

Foxconn told workers returning to their jobs Monday to wear masks, follow a certain dining system and go through temperature checks, according to internal memos Reuters reviewed.

Taiwan-based Foxconn is working with Chinese officials to restart production across China “in a staggered and orderly manner” while keeping employee safety its top priority, the company told Reuters in a statement.

The expected delay in getting Foxconn’s factories back up and running could reportedly hurt the world’s iPhone supply. Full production at Foxconn’s factories likely won’t resume until late February because it will take one to two weeks to ramp up operations, Reuters reported last week.

Trendforce, a market research firm, expects about 10 percent fewer iPhones to be produced in the first quarter of this year, according to the news agency. And TFI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently cut his first-quarter iPhone sales forecast 10 percent to 36 million to 40 million units.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Shares in the tech giant were trading down 0.2 percent at $319.32 as of 11:14 a.m. Monday.

The coronavirus has forced Apple to temporarily shutter its stores in mainland China, the epicenter of the outbreak. The company has also set a “wider-than-usual revenue range” for the quarter ending in March because of uncertainty related to the outbreak, CEO Tim Cook said on an earnings call last month.

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