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Apple reported that iPhone unit sales fell by 1 per cent in the last quarter to 50.8m units, just short of Wall Street’s estimates, as the Silicon Valley-based company increased its capital returns to shareholders by $50bn.

Apple’s basic earnings per share rose 10 per cent to $2.11, beating analysts’ forecasts for the quarter.

The drop in iPhone unit sales was counterbalanced by a 1 per cent increase in revenues from Apple’s flagship device, as average selling prices were driven up $13 by the popularity of the larger 7 Plus model.

In an interview, Apple finance chief Luca Maestri said that the reported figure includes only handsets that were sold into the retail channel. On a “sell through” basis that captures final sales to consumers, total sales were 52m – around the level analysts were expecting for the quarter – because channel inventory was reduced by 1.2m units.

Overall, Apple’s sales grew 5 per cent to $52.9bn, compared with Wall Street’s consensus estimates of $53.1bn.

“We are proud to report a strong March quarter, with revenue growth accelerating from the December quarter and continued robust demand for iPhone 7 Plus,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said in a statement, noting “strong momentum” in its services business.

For the June quarter, Apple forecast revenues of $43.5bn-$45.5bn, or year-on-year growth of 3 to 7 per cent – a touch below analysts’ expectations of $45.7bn.

At the same time as releasing its results, Apple said it would increase the size of its capital return programme to $300bn by the end of March 2019. That includes $210bn worth of share buybacks and a 10.5 per cent dividend increase.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

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