Apple CEO to meet S’pore leaders to wrap Asia tour

Apple Inc chief executive officer Tim Cook will meet Singapore’s leader at the tail end of his most extensive South-East Asia tour in years, searching for new growth markets and manufacturing locations to offset headwinds in China.

Cook arrived in Singapore yesterday for a two-day visit to meet with Lawrence Wong, who is set to take over as Prime Minister next month, as well as his predecessor Lee Hsien Loong, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the executive’s itinerary isn’t public.

Apple’s CEO is on the verge of concluding a highly public tour that’s taken him from Hanoi to Jakarta, during which he repeatedly stressed the region’s importance as both a market and emergent manufacturing base.

His company is looking for growth markets beyond China, a traditional stronghold where demand for its flagship iPhone is sputtering.

The company is also diversifying its production beyond the country to reduce risks at a time of elevated tensions between China and the United States.

From meetings with country leaders in Vietnam and Indonesia to interactions with local customers, Cook has filled a lion’s share of his schedule with publicity activities to generate interest in the brand, the source said.

Apple has already increased its retail presence and output in countries such as India, and is now seeking to better tap a relatively fast-growing South-East Asian market with more than 650 million consumers.

As part of the push, the company is getting close to opening the first Apple Store in Malaysia, located in The Exchange TRX shopping complex in Kuala Lumpur.

Apple currently operates five brick-and-mortar stores in South-East Asia, three in Singapore and two in Thailand, according to its website.

Apple, which has operated in Singapore for over 40 years, said on Wednesday it plans to invest US$250mil (RM1.19bil) to expand its campus in the country. The company employs over 3,600 people there and said the expansion will provide space for new roles in artificial intelligence and other functions.

“With our growing (Singapore) campus, Apple is writing a new chapter in our history here,” Cook said in a statement on Apple’s website.

In the first leg of the tour, Cook met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on Tuesday after pledging new investment in the country.

He said Apple plans to buy more components and accessories for its devices from Vietnam’s suppliers, a big boost for the country as it emerges as a global electronics hub.

In Indonesia, Cook told President Joko Widodo that Apple is weighing the possibility of making some of its gadgets there. — Bloomberg

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