Bloomberg is quoting a report from the major Chinese business paper 21st Century Business Herald that the iPhone 6 may not go on sale in China this year due to regulatory delays. Apple was unable to confirm a launch date in the country.

Apple may have to wait until next year to get approval for new iPhones in China after failing to reach agreement with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology this month, the 21st Century Business Herald reported today, citing an unidentified person close to Apple.

Carolyn Wu, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Apple, said she couldn’t provide a date for the China release. “China is a key market for us and we will get here as soon as possible,” Wu said in an e-mail today …

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If true, it would be a major blow to Apple, for whom China is a hugely important market. The reliability of the source is unclear, however, the WSJ reporting last week that the paper had been accused of extorting money from companies by threatening to run negative stories about them.

The official Xinhua News Agency, citing investigators, said Wednesday that some journalists at the 21st Century Business Herald website targeted companies preparing for initial public offerings and forced them to sign lucrative advertising contracts to avoid negative news coverage.

Xinhua said the practice resulted in several hundred million yuan in “advertising contracts” beginning from at least 2010. State broadcaster China Central Television put the total at 300 million yuan ($48.9 million).

Reuters reported later the same day that executives from the paper had since made confessions on state television.

Last year, the iPhone 5s and 5c launched in China on the same day as in the USA. It had earlier been reported that regulatory delays might mean the iPhone 6 wouldn’t launch in China on 19th September, but this is the first suggestion that it might be so badly delayed.

Relationships between Apple and the Chinese government have at times been strained. Last year, Tim Cook issued an apology to China over accusations of poor warranty service were made on Chinese state TV, and earlier this year the same TV channel described the iPhone as a “national security concern” due to its location-tracking capabilities.

At the time of writing, AAPL shares were down 1.1 percent in pre-market trading.

Photo credit: South China Morning Post

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