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Wed, Jul 23, 2008 - Page 10 News List

Apple stock falls despite rise in profit

UNCERTAINTIESApple’s soft guidance on fiscal fourth-quarter earnings and questions about Steve Jobs’ health sent the firm’s shares down 10.8 percent

AP , SEATTLE

A man walks past an advertisement for the iPod Touch outside an Apple store in San Francisco on April 23. Macintosh and iPod sales helped boost Apple Inc’s fiscal third-quarter earnings, the firm said on Monday.

PHOTO: AP/IRANIAN TV VIA APTN

Macintosh and iPod sales helped boost Apple Inc’s fiscal third-quarter earnings 31 percent, beating Wall Street’s expectations on Monday, but investors pummeled the stock after Apple issued soft guidance for the current quarter.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs did not join the conference call with investors, prompting an analyst to inquire about his health. Jobs has survived pancreatic cancer.

“He has no plan to leave Apple,” chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said. “Steve’s health is a private matter.”

Apple earned US$1.07 billion, or US$1.19 per share, in the fiscal quarter ending June 28 — US$0.11 ahead of Wall Street’s expectations, based on a Thomson Financial survey of analysts.

Revenue jumped 38 percent to US$7.46 billion — ahead of analysts’ average forecast of US$7.37 billion in sales.

Apple said Mac shipments in the quarter reached a record 2.5 million, up 41 percent from a year ago, with desktop shipments growing faster than laptops. Apple also said iPod sales jumped 12 percent.

The company shipped 717,000 iPhones, a device launched a year ago that melds smartphone and portable media player features.

Oppenheimer said he was confident Apple would meet its goal of selling 10 million iPhones this fiscal year, including the cheaper, faster iPhone 3G that reached stores in 22 countries early this month.

Oppenheimer said sales from its retail stores, most of which are in the US, rose faster than revenue overall, despite economic turmoil wrought by the domestic mortgage and credit crises.

He also teased forthcoming “state-of-the-art new products that our competitors just aren’t going to be able to match,” but told investors he could not give any details.

“The quarter was a home run,” Oppenheimer said in an interview earlier on Monday, but at first glance, investors disagreed. Apple’s shares sank US$18.04, or 10.8 percent, to US$148.25 in after-hours trading, after gaining US$1.34 to close at US$166.29.

Investors might have been spooked by Apple’s conservative outlook for fiscal fourth quarter, though the company often shoots low.

Apple predicted profit of US$1 per share on US$7.8 billion in sales — well short of Wall Street’s expectations. Analysts had been expecting Apple’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings to reach US$1.24 per share on US$8.32 billion in sales.

“The stock is plagued by high expectations,” said Shaw Wu, an analyst for American Technology Research, in an interview. “Looking at the numbers by themselves, they are actually quite strong.”

Investors may also have been eyeing a drop in Apple’s gross margin, which fell to 34.8 percent from 36.9 percent in the year-ago quarter. During the call, Apple said that the margin was actually better than expected, helped in part by better commodity prices and stronger sales of higher-margin products.

Apple doesn’t disclose margins for specific products, but Wu said Macs, which sold briskly in the quarter, were among the company’s higher-margin items.

Looking ahead at the fourth quarter and next fiscal year, Oppenheimer forecast even lower margins, tied in part to the launch of undisclosed new products.

Wu said he didn’t know exactly what Apple is planning, but said he expected changes to the Mac laptop lineup.

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