Apple unveils record $6bn quarterly profit

Apple reported a record $6bn in quarterly profit and voiced confidence in its strategy a day after announcing that its iconic chief executive, Steve Jobs, was taking an open-ended leave of absence for undisclosed medical reasons.

Apple shares fell more than 2 per cent on Tuesday, when US trading resumed for the first time since the company had said that Mr Jobs would go on leave and quoted him saying that he hoped to return “as soon as I can”.

Although investors and analysts privately expressed frustration at Apple’s unwillingness to say whether Mr Jobs’ cancer had returned or give any prognosis, none of those tapped to ask questions on the quarterly-results call brought up the topic.

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, who will lead the company in Mr Jobs’ absence, tried to reassure those listening.

He referred twice to the Apple “magic” and pointed out the company’s growth potential in multiple markets, including that for personal computers, where Macs still have less than 10 per cent of the US share. Mr Cook also pointed to a fourfold increase in quarterly revenue in the Asia region, excluding Japan, and to widening support from businesses for the iPad tablet and the iPhone.

“In my view, Apple is doing its best work ever,” Mr Cook said. “We are all very happy with the product pipeline and the team here has an unparalleled breadth and depth and culture of innovation that Steve has driven in the company. Excellence has become a habit.”

While Apple routinely steers financial expectations low and then exceeds them, per-share profit in the fiscal first quarter of $6.43 beat the Wall Street consensus by 21 per cent.

The news reversed the slide in share price that began when Apple said Mr Jobs would take leave while keeping his title and remaining involved with strategic decisions. Apple stock rose 1.5 per cent in after-hours trading on Tuesday.

Apple revenue rose 70 per cent to $26.74bn from $15.68bn, paced by an 86 per cent jump in the number of iPhones sold and strong sales for its Macs and iPads.

The iPad, launched less than a year ago, had sales of more than 7m units in the three months ended December 25, giving it a total for the calendar year above 15m. Mac units increased 23 per cent in the quarter to 4.13m.

“We are firing on all cylinders and we’ve got some exciting things in the pipeline for this year, including iPhone 4 on Verizon,” Mr Jobs said in a prepared release. He did not appear on the conference call.

On the previous quarter’s call, Mr Jobs was unusually critical of rival products, and Mr Cook took on some of that role. He dismissed Windows-based tablets as “generally big and heavy and expensive” with weak battery life and requiring a keyboard or stylus. The Android-based tablets were so small as to be “bizarre”.

Asked his opinion of the growing crowd of tablets made by others, he said Apple was not standing still, a reference to the coming second-generation iPad that he declined to describe.

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