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Tim Cook visits Singapore amid Apple’s Southeast Asia expansion

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., center, arrives at Apple Developer Academy at Binus University in Tangerang, Banten, Indonesia, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. 

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple’s Tim Cook is in Singapore for the latest leg of his whirlwind tour around Southeast Asia as the CEO pivots toward the region for expansion and sales growth amid struggles in China. 

Cook confirmed his arrival in Singapore on his official X (formerly known as Twitter) account Thursday, posting a video of himself with a local photographer at the city’s famous Gardens by the Bay tourist attraction.

According to anonymous sources cited in a Bloomberg report, Cook’s visit will last until Friday and include a meeting with the city-state’s next prime minister, Lawrence Wong, as well as incumbent Lee Hsien Loong. Lee will formally step down on May 15 after 20 years as the head of government. Wong will become Singapore’s fourth prime minister.

Cook’s arrival in the city follows Apple’s announcement of plans to invest over $250 million into its operations in Singapore. While the tech giant already employs 3,600 people in the country, Apple said the expansion will provide space for new roles, including in artificial intelligence.

The country serves as a regional hub for the Cupertino, California-based tech giant, with critical roles in software, hardware, services and support, the company said. 

The meeting with the prime minister is expected to conclude Cook’s tour around Southeast Asia that saw the CEO make stops in Vietnam to meet with Apple developers and users, and Indonesia, where he met with President Joko Widodo. 

Bloomberg reported that Cook’s schedule was packed with public activities to generate interest in the brand, which could pave the way for a more aggressive regional sales campaign. 

Apple did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment about Cook’s itinerary. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook visits Vietnam — here's why

This year, the company launched an online Apple Store in Vietnam and has reportedly been hiring for its first retail center in Malaysia. 

Increased business in Southeast Asia could help offset the company’s recent headwinds. Figures released Monday by the International Data Corporation showed global iPhone shipments fell 10% from a year ago in the first quarter amid increased competition in China. 

Smartphone sales in China, Apple’s largest overseas market, have also been in a lull compared to Southeast Asia, where sales were booming at the start of the year.

The region’s phone market is forecasted to grow 7% year-over-year in 2024, much faster than a 3% rate for the rest of the world, according to data from Canalys.

Cook has also used his latest travels to highlight Southeast Asia as an important manufacturing hub. 

The company has pushed to diversify its supply chain beyond its base in China since 2022, when it experienced pandemic-related supply disruptions.

Vietnam has already become a key manufacturing location amid diversification efforts. Meanwhile, Cook said on Wednesday that the company will “look at” manufacturing in Indonesia.

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