Apple results surge past forecasts

Apple blasted past Wall Street expectations with record quarterly revenues of $46.3bn powered by the sale of 37m iPhone devices, giving the company nearly $100bn of cash in hand.

The Silicon Valley group reported record net profits of $13.06bn, or $13.87 per share, in its December quarter, well ahead of analyst expectations of $10.07 per share and Apple’s guidance of $9.30.

Apple shares jumped nearly 10 per cent in after-market trading before slipping back for a 7.5 per cent gain at $451.94.

Wall Street had expected revenues of $38.8bn with sales of about 30m iPhones, boosted by the launch in October of the 4S model.

Apple tends to be conservative in its guidance but it missed analyst expectations for the first time in years in October, blaming the later release of the new iPhone.

Sales of models including the 4S in the December quarter were up 128 per cent on a year earlier, while Apple also sold 15.43m iPads, representing sales growth of 111 per cent.

Tim Cook, chief executive, said Apple had ended the quarter with a significant order backlog for the iPhone, despite taking a “bold bet” on demand for the new 4s.

The company said it expected revenues of about $32.5bn in the current quarter and earnings per share of about $8.50. Wall Street analysts forecast $32bn and $8.00 in earnings per share.

“Apple’s strong guidance beat [the] Street, despite its usual conservatism, illustrating strong anticipated ongoing momentum, possibly including the expected launch of the iPad3,” said Mike Abramsky, analyst with RBC Capital Markets.

The iPad was launched in January 27 2010 and its successor was unveiled on March 2 last year. A new iPad3 model and continuing demand for the iPhone – the new 4S went on sale in China this month – are likely to drive sales in the current quarter. “Demand is off the charts,” said Mr Cook.

Mr Cook said he did not see cheaper iPad competitors, such as Amazon’s Kindle Fire, becoming a threat. “People really want to do multiple things with a tablet and therefore we don’t really see these limited-function tablets being in the same category.

“Last year . . . was the year of the iPad for the second year in a row, so we are going to continue to innovate like crazy in this area and we think we can continue to compete with anyone.”

Mr Cook, who took over as chief executive last August due to the ill health of Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder who died in October, said his strategic viewpoint for the company had not changed: “The team is doing a fantastic job and I feel very good about where we are,” he said.

Apple hinted it might move to reduce its cash holdings, which grew by $16bn in the quarter to $97.6bn. Peter Oppenheimer, chief financial officer, said management and the board were “discussing” uses for the cash while “not letting it burn a hole in our pockets”.

In other parts of Apple’s business, Mac computer sales rose 26 per cent to 5.2m, but iPod sales continued to decline – down 21 per cent at 15.4m units.

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