A rebound in sales of Macintosh computers helped Apple beat Wall Street expectations on Wednesday, sending shares in the company up more than 10 per cent in pre-market trading.

Steve Jobs, chief executive, said Apple was “thrilled” with its performance.

Apple recorded net earnings of 54 cents a share for the period, up 46 per cent from a year ago. Sales were $4.4bn, up 25 per cent year-on-year. Most analysts had expected earnings of 44 cents a share on sales of $4.4bn.

The computer maker sold about 1.4m Macintosh computers in the period, up 12 per cent from one year ago. Investors had been keeping a close eye on the Macintosh numbers following a sluggish April quarter in which Mac sales increased just 4 per cent.

Analysts said the April slowdown reflected customer hesitation to make new purchases as the company made the transition to Intel-based microprocessors in its flagship computer line.

Mr Jobs said 75 per cent of the Macs sold last quarter contained Intel chips. He predicted that the remainder of Apple’s product line would be fully converted to Intel chips by the end of the year.

Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner, said the third-quarter Mac numbers were “clearly an improvement” over the April quarter, but warned that Apple faced a “long, slow battle” as it attempted to win converts to the Macintosh.

“They’re not going to have an overnight switch,” he said, noting that the debut of Microsoft’s long-awaited Vista operating system in several months’ time would test whether Apple was going to be able to win a steady stream of PC converts.

Apple sold more than 8m iPods in the quarter, up 32 per cent from one year ago, confounding some analysts who had expected a slowdown in iPod sales growth. Shares in the company have fallen more than 40 per cent this year amid mounting pressure to develop new versions of the popular music player.

Mr Jobs said on Wednesday that Apple was “extremely excited about future iPod products in our pipeline.”

Looking ahead, Apple said it expected earnings of 46 cents to 48 cents a share in its fourth fiscal quarter, on sales of $4.5bn to $4.6bn.

Meanwhile, Apple it did not expect an internal investigation into options-granting practices to result in a restatement of its financial results.

Apple, one of dozens of Silicon Valley companies to have become caught up in a controversy over options grants, last month announced that a voluntary investigation had uncovered “irregularities” in grants to several senior executives between 1997-2001, including one grant to Mr Jobs that was never exercised.

Broadcom, a semiconductor company, earlier this week said it expected to take a $750m charge and restate five years of results following an internal options probe.

By late Thursday morning, shares of Apple, which fell 8 per cent on Monday, were trading more than 12 per cent higher at $60.63.

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