Apple Inc’s net profit in the fiscal fourth quarter soared with booming iPad sales, but its stock sank on Tuesday because of missed iPhone expectations.
The iconic California company reported record-high July-to-September quarter profit of US$6.62 billion on revenue of US$28.27 billion boosted by iPad sales that nearly tripled to 11.12 million in comparison with the same period last year.
However, the enviable earnings did not measure up to expectations Wall Street had set for Apple and the company stock price slid more than 6 percent to US$394.05 in after-hours trading.
“We are thrilled with the very strong finish of an outstanding fiscal 2011, growing annual revenue to US$108 billion and growing earnings to US$26 billion,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said. “Customer response to iPhone 4S has been fantastic, we have strong momentum going into the holiday season and we remain really enthusiastic about our product pipeline.”
The company saw iPhone sales rise to 17.07 million and Macintosh computer sales climb to 4.89 million in 26 percent and 21 percent increases respectively, from last year’s third fiscal quarter.
However, analysts had expected iPhone sales to be stronger.
It was the second miss for Apple when it came to managing market expectations, according to independent Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle.
“Steve Jobs always beat the street because he was expert at managing expectations,” Enderle said, adding that the stock was punished because Wall Street thought Apple’s fourth quarter earnings would be better.
And while the new iPhone 4S is superb, people had anticipated a dazzlingly different fifth-generation Apple smartphone, according to Enderle.
Cook unveiled the 4S on Oct. 4, one day before Apple co-founder Jobs died following a long battle with cancer.
Meanwhile, Apple executives downplayed the break in iPhone sales momentum, saying rumors buzzing before the launch last week of the iPhone 4S caused people to wait to snap up the latest model.
“I am confident we will set an all-time record for iPhone this quarter,” Cook said during an earnings conference call. “In our wildest dreams we couldn’t have gotten off to as good a start as we did with the 4S.”
Apple has sold more than 4 million iPhone 4S smartphones since it was released on Friday in seven countries: the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Britain.
It will be available in 22 other countries, including much of Europe, by the end of this month, and more than 70 countries by the end of this year, the company said.
Apple executives predicted iPad sales will also shatter records during the year-end Western holiday shopping season.
Sales of iPod MP3 players slid 27 percent to 6.62 million in a predictable decline in the fourth fiscal quarter as people increasingly rely on smartphones for video and music.
China has become Apple’s fastest-growing region, with revenue there second only to the US.
“I’ve never seen a country with as many people rising into the middle class that aspire to buy products Apple makes,” Cook said. “The sky is the limit there.”
And Apple is seeing “significant opportunity” as well in Brazil, Russia and the Middle East.
A formidable iPad challenger has yet to arrive, according to Cook, who believes that the tablet market will become larger than the personal computer market.
Apple has sold more than 40 million iPads since Jobs introduced the tablet early last year.
Cook also said iPad sales are cannibalizing desktop computer and laptop sales, but that the biggest bite is coming out of the market for machines powered by Microsoft’s Windows operating systems.
“We are coming out very well in the cannibalization category,” Cook said, adding that Macintosh sales in the past quarter were at a record high.
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