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Investors dump handset stocks as iPhone debuts

Investors dump handset stocks as iPhone debuts

Global investors dumped stocks in a number of mobile device makers on Tuesday including BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM), after Apple. announced its entry into the mobile phone market with the iPhone.

RIM shares dropped 7.7 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange over fears the iPhone may cause users to turn off their BlackBerries and switch to the new Apple smartphone. Shares in Treo-maker Palm tumbled 5.7 percent on the Nasdaq.

RIM shares had regained ground early Wednesday, up 2.3 percent by early afternoon on the TSE. Just a few weeks ago, the company reported strong third-quarter profits on new subscribers to its popular text service and brisk sales of its first consumer-focused device, the BlackBerry Pearl.

North American companies weren't the only stocks hit by the iPhone.

The contagion quickly spread to Asia, where High Tech Computer., the world's largest maker of Microsoft Windows-based smartphones, dropped 4.1 percent on the Taiwan Stock Exchange in Taipei.

Shares in South Korean mobile phone maker Samsung Electronics, the number three market share leader after Nokia and Motorola, fell 1.4 percent, while LG Electronics shed 2.7 percent.

Investors in Europe woke up to the news in a similar mood to sell mobile phone related shares. Nokia dropped 2.2 percent in Helsinki, while Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson fell 1.4 percent.

But the news wasn't all bad. Some companies prospered from the iPhone announcement because they're expected to supply components to the handset. Balda, a German supplier of touch screens, rose 15.9 percent in Frankfurt on Tuesday, while Taiwan's Catcher Technology, a mobile phone casing supplier, added 5.2 percent on the day.

Apple rose 8.3 percent on Tuesday, mostly after the iPhone news was released. The company's shares are up 5.4 percent at US$97.53 early Wednesday in trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

One analyst urged caution on the new announcement by Apple, noting the iPhone hasn't been tested by the market yet, and that it won't contribute much to the bottom line of component suppliers until later this year. The iPhone is slated to launch in June.

"Furthermore, though we are overall positive on iPhone’s launch and its impact to Apple’s [supply] chain in Taiwan, we believe the implications to Apple’s suppliers is mixed, with iPhone’s exciting market potential and the possible cannibalization toward its iPod product lines," said Henry King, an analyst for Goldman Sachs in Taipei.


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