Analysts argue Apple/China Mobile deal still a matter of time

|About: China Mobile Limited (CHL)|By:, SA News Editor

Though Dec. 18 is set to come and go without a much-anticipated China Mobile (CHL +1.6%) iPhone deal arriving, the sell-side still sees the issue as merely one of timing.

Wells Fargo notes CHL's management recently said the carrier already has as many as 50M iPhones on its network, and thinks another 15M could be added in 2014.

BMO observes CHL is looking to sell 100M 4G phones in total next year - that's a positive for Qualcomm (QCOM), provided regulators don't get in its way - and wonders if Apple (AAPL -0.8%) wants to have a separate iPhone announcement, rather than take part in a broader CHL service launch event (such as today's)

Wedge Partners is a little more cautious: While believing a China Mobile deal could happen in Q1 and pointing out some CHL branches have already begun selling unsubsidized iPhones, it thinks the world's biggest carrier might not begin promoting the iPhone until 2H. The firm expects total Chinese iPhone sales will only rise to 34M-35M in 2014 from 33M in 2013.

Earlier: Apple lower premarket following China Mobile, Jabil news