Apple hails results but outlook knocks stock price
Apple shares slid more than 10 percent Wednesday after the tech giant posted record profits and sales of its iPhones and iPads but offered a disappointing forecast for the coming months.
Apple said it made a profit of $13.l billion on revenue of $54.5 billion in the fiscal quarter that ended on December 29 as sales of iPhones and iPads set quarterly highs.
The California-based company reported that it sold 47.8 million iPhones and 22.9 million iPad tablet computers in the closing months of last year.
"We're thrilled with record revenue of over $54 billion and sales of over 75 million iOS devices in a single quarter," said Apple chief executive Tim Cook.
Despite the figures, some investors soured on Apple, after it forecast that its revenue for the current quarter would range from $41 to $43 billion and a gross margin of from 37.5 to 39.5 percent.
Peter Misek, analyst at Jefferies, said Apple's results topped the consensus "but fell short of our estimates."
Apple shares dropped 10.1 percent to $461.68 in after-market trading that followed release of the earnings results.
"The most important thing is that our customers love our products," Cook said in an earnings call with financial analysts.
"Not just buy them; love them," he continued. "Everyone at Apple has their eyes on the future."
Apple's stock has been in a downward spiral since hitting a record level above $700 last year, amid concerns that it is losing its edge in innovation, and that rivals are catching up or surpassing Apple in key segments.
Recently, the iPhone 5 made a lackluster debut in China and an analyst reported that Apple had cut orders for smartphone parts.
Apple remains the world's most valuable company but its image has been hit by several factors, including an embarrassing release of its glitch-ridden maps program for the new iPhone.
A survey last month showed Google's Android operating system will power more than two-thirds of smartphones sold worldwide in 2012, and will remain the dominant platform for at least the next four years.
The survey by the research firm IDC showed Android will be the platform for 68.3 percent of smartphones shipped in 2012, far ahead of 18.8 percent for the iOS platform used on Apple's iPhone.
Brian White at Topeka Capital Markets remained upbeat on Apple.
"There is quite a bit of bad news priced into the stock at current levels," he said.
White said he was unfazed by Apple's "signature conservative outlook" and that the company is likely to get a lift from what he believes will be a new iPhone launch in May or June, and an "iPad refresh" in March.
Cook referred to the tablet market as "the mother of all opportunities" and that Apple was positioned to benefit from iPads cannibalizing sales of personal computers.
He said the company was in its most prolific product introduction period since late co-founder Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh computer on January 24, 1984.
"Tomorrow marks the anniversary of a revolution," Cook said. "We've come a long way since 1984."
While iPhone and iPad sales climbed in the quarter, Apple sold fewer Macintosh computers and iPod MP3 players than it did in the same period last year.
A positive note was that it sold as many iPad Mini tablets as it could ship, according to executives who declined to give a specific figure.
Apple saw its biggest iPhone sales jump in China, where revenue surged, according to Cook.
"We are making great progress (in China)," Cook said. "I am very happy with how things are going. It is clear there is a lot of potential there."
Cook advised analysts not to expect a larger-screen iPhone, praising the smartphone's screen and saying the company believed it is the right size.
He also advised analysts to be wary of rumors about Apple trimming parts orders and what that might signal about demand for its gadgets.
"I don't want to comment on any particular rumor, because I would spend my life doing that," Cook said.
"It is good to question the accuracy of any particular rumor."