Apple temporarily halts Russian online sales over currency issues

The California electronics giant says it has closed its Russian online store while it reviews pricing in the wake of "extreme fluctuations of the ruble."

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
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Apple has shuttered its online store in Russia for the time being. The site displays a "We'll be back" message. Screenshot by Shara Tibken/CNET

Russian customers waiting for Apple's iPhone 6 will have to wait longer.

The Cupertino, Calif., electronics giant on Tuesday temporarily shuttered its online store in the Eastern European country because of the instability of Russia's currency. Apple doesn't operate physical stores in the country, and the company declined to say when it would resume online sales there.

"Due to extreme fluctuations in the value of the ruble, our online store in Russia is currently unavailable while we review pricing. We apologize to customers for any inconvenience," Apple said in a statement.

The ruble has been dropping sharply in recent days following the declining price of oil -- the commodity that props up Russia's economy. Russia's currency lost about 20 percent of its value against the US dollar Tuesday despite efforts by the government to stem the decline.

Emerging markets are key for Apple's growth, with the company and rivals turning to the regions to attract new customers. Apple doesn't break out Russia sales, but analysts estimate only a small fraction of sales come from the country. Revenue from Europe overall climbed 19 percent, to $9.54 billion, in the fiscal fourth quarter. And executives have often touted the growth in BRIC countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China -- during earnings calls. In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook said iPad sales climbed 20 percent in the combined countries during all of fiscal 2014, helping counteract declines in other regions.

But the falling value of the ruble has caused Apple and other companies to reevaluate the price of goods in the country. Apple last month boosted iPhone 6 pricing by 25 percent in Russia, according to Bloomberg, which earlier reported the online store closing. The falling ruble value had made the iPhone cheaper in Russia than in any other country in Europe before Apple increased pricing in November.