There has been disagreement among analysts and experts as to how worried Apple and Google ought to be about the tech giant antitrust probe being carried out by the Justice Department.
We’ve so far seen everything from warnings to avoid investing in the stocks through to the view that nothing much is likely to change. Now investment bank Macquarie has put some numbers on one possible outcome …
The main area of Apple’s business to come under scrutiny so far is the App Store. Developers and customers alike argue that it is a monopoly, as it’s the only way to sell iPhone and iPad apps. Apple denies this, on the basis that the iPhone does not have a monopoly in the smartphone market and therefore customers are free to buy apps elsewhere for use on competitor phones, and that developers are free to write apps for Android. Google, of course, makes the mirror image case.
One potential outcome of an antitrust probe, however, is that Apple and Google could be required to reduce the cut they take from app sales. Macquarie says that this would have a significant impact on profitability as the vast majority of app commission is pure profit. There are operating costs for the App Store and Google Play store, of course, but most of that cash goes directly onto the respective companies’ bottom-line.
Business Insider reports Macquarie estimating the hit to both companies.
Both Google and Apple charge a 30% fee on any purchases of subscriptions or apps through the company’s platforms. According to the firm’s report, for every 5% drop in commission rates from the current 30%, Apple would lose 4.5% of its operating income and Google would take a 3.6% hit.
“If commission rates come down, the revenue comes straight out of AAPL and GOOG and into the developer’s hands,” a team of analysts led by Benjamin Schacter said in a note to clients on Wednesday.
The Google Play store currently accounts for $8.7 billion of Google’s $182 billion in revenue, and Apple’s app store generates $17 billion of the iPhone maker’s $270 billion in revenue, according to Macquarie’s report.
Whether customers would see any benefit from reduced commissions is a big question. Developers would have the choice of retaining their existing margins and reducing prices or leaving pricing unchanged and pocketing the difference. Macquarie clearly expects the latter scenario, taking game developer Zynga as an example.
Social game developers like Zynga are particularly vulnerable to the the commissions rates charged by Google and Apple. Macquarie’s analyst found that for every 5% drop in commission charges, Zynga could see up to a 18.2% increase in EBITDA [Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization], the largest percentage benefit out of any company in the report.
This is because the commission saving would apply to each in-app purchase.
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