Apple's profit almost doubles on iPhone, China demand

Jump in iPhone sales, particularly in China, see Apple's Q2 profits almost double
Apple's profit almost doubles on iPhone, China demand
(Getty Images)
By Reuters
Wed 25 Apr 2012 10:35 AM

Apple quarterly profit almost doubled, blowing past Wall Street estimates after a jump in iPhone sales, particularly in the greater China region, and soothing fears that the iPhone was past its best days for sharp growth.

Shares in Apple, the world's most valuable technology company, shot 7 percent higher after the bell, recouping some losses from the past two weeks that had stemmed from concerns that iPhone sales growth rates could not be maintained.

While iPad sales were a little lighter than expected, fiscal second-quarter revenue jumped to US$39.2bn, 59 percent more than a year earlier and 6.5 percent higher than analysts' average forecasts.

Lower-than-expected commodity costs also helped lift margins way above estimates.

"That shows they are able to maintain their pricing without compromising on growth," said Morningstar analyst Michael Holt.

Holt added that this had come even though lower priced competition from Google's Android phones - made by the likes of Motorola Mobility and Samsung Electronics were becoming more compelling.

"The concern was that Apple might sell more older models to be more competitive. That would have shown up in the gross margin. But aggregate gross margin and average revenue per device show that this hasn't happened," he said.

Apple sold 35.1m iPhones - which account for about half its revenue - in the quarter, outpacing the 30m or so expected by Wall Street analysts, with pent-up demand for the 4S bolstering revenue for China, Taiwan and Hong Kong five-fold to US$7.9bn.

"International iPhone sales were on fire," Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer told Reuters in an interview.

But sales of the iPad, the latest version of which hit store shelves in mid-March, came in at 11.8m iPads, below an average forecast of up to 13m

"There's no doubt looking in the last quarter and the Christmas season, Apple has executed very well. But you are starting to see the iPad... reach some sort of saturation with the current product," said Patrick Becker, a principal at Becker Capital Management, which does not own Apple shares.

Net income rose to US$11.6bn, or US$12.30 a share, from US$6bn, or US$6.40 per share, a year earlier. That also outpaced Wall Street's target of US$10.04 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Gross margins in the fiscal second quarter climbed to 47.4 percent from 41.4 percent a year earlier, surpassing Wall Street's average forecast of 42.8 percent.

The results came after a 13 percent decline in its shares - long considered a must-have in most U.S. equity portfolios - over the past couple of weeks in unusually volatile trading, as investors fretted over potential competitive and pricing pressures.

Responding to concerns that wireless carriers may reduce subsidies for the iPhone, thereby lowering Apple's profit margin, Chief Executive Tim Cook said the subsidies aren't large when compared with what carriers can recoup from consumers over a 24-month contract period.

So-called churn, or the rate that customers switch from the iPhone to other models, is the lowest of any phone they sell, which has a "significant, direct financial benefit to the carrier," Cook added.

As for patent litigation battles with rivals, Cook said he preferred to settle if Apple could get a fair settlement. The company is fighting court battles with several Android phone makers, including Samsung, HTC Corp and Motorola in the US and other countries.

The company, which has said it will finally begin sharing its record cash hoard with investors via a quarterly dividend, added that US$74bn of its US$110bn in cash and securities was now parked outside of the US as of March 31.

Apple's stock gained to US$601 from a close of US$560.28 on Nasdaq but is still far below an intraday high of US$644 reached this month.

"When you have a strong rally in a stock it often sells off for no better reason than uncertainty. I think you're going to see the naysayers go away," said Michael Yoshikami, chief executive of Destination Wealth Management.

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