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Plant shutdown may disrupt Apple, HTC products

One of the largest suppliers of metal casings for laptops and smartphones, Charter, is experiencing a partial production shutdown at its Suzhou, China plant. The suspension of some production lines at Charter is the result of local communities reporting odors near the plant.

The disruption could be resolved by the installation of new equipment by the end of the month, but it couldn’t come at a worse time for Apple(s aapl), HTC and especially for makers of new ultrabook laptops.

According to a research note we received today from UBS, the affected Catcher plan accounts for 40 percent of the company’s revenues, with 60 percent of production allocated to metal casings for laptops. As a result of the production issues, supplies of MacBook Air laptops, as well as standard and thin notebooks, called ultrabooks, from Dell, Lenovo, Acer, and Sony(s sne) could be delayed, although UBS suggests Dell has a second casing source.

Case creation could be allocated to other plants if necessary, says UBS. The impact of the shut down is likely going to hurt the ultrabook makers more than Apple: these are debuting brand new notebook products just prior to the profitable holiday season. Introducing the new ultrabook lines, with pricing expected to start around $1,000, is enough of a challenge; with notebook sales growth in decline, these vendors don’t need additional obstacles.

A number of smartphone makers are likely impacted as well: UBS names HTC, Research In Motion(s rimm), and Motorola (s mmi) as Charter metal casing customers. Ironically, Samsung’s heavy reliance on the use of plastic for its smartphones means it won’t be impacted at all. Some don’t like the lightweight feel of a plastic Samsung handset, but since there’s little to no metal casing, the company can keep churning out smartphones, including its popular Galaxy S and Galaxy S II: Samsung has now sold 30 million of these smartphones across both lines reports Korea Times on Monday.

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