Apple reports biggest profit of a public company in history
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Jan 28, 2015 - 8:01 AM

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Apple on Tuesday reported the largest net income of any public company in history in the three months to December, as record iPhone sales of 74.5m units exceeded Wall Street forecasts.

The company said it sold 74.5m iPhones in the quarter, 46% above a year earlier, while raising the average selling price of the devices by $50 from the prior year. The total equates to more than 34,000 phones an hour, around the clock, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Apple’s net profit grew 37% to $18bn, topping ExxonMobil’s previous quarterly record of $15.9bn in 2012, based on data from S&P Dow Jones Indices.

“Demand for iPhone was staggering,” Tim Cook, Apple CEO,  told analysts. “This volume is hard to comprehend.”

The Journal said Apple’s performance was especially impressive in China, where researcher Canalys estimates it was the top smartphone seller during the quarter. For greater China, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong, Apple said revenue rose 70% during the quarter, to $16.1bn. That moved the region close to overtaking Europe as Apple’s second-biggest market. Apple said iPhone sales doubled in mainland China even though its newest models didn’t reach that country until mid-October.

Apple said its gross margin, a closely watched indicator measuring the percentage of revenue that remains after manufacturing costs, was 39.9% in the December quarter, up from 37.9% a year earlier. In October, Apple had forecast gross margin of between 37.5% and 38.5% for the quarter.

Apple’s iPhone sales provided cover for another sluggish quarter for the iPad. Apple said it sold 21.4m iPads during the December period, down 18% from a year earlier.

Sales of its Mac personal computers rose 14% over a year earlier to 5.5m units. It has gained market share consistently against PC rivals in recent quarters. Research firm IDC said industrywide PC shipments declined 2.4% during the fourth quarter. Competing researcher Gartner said quarterly PC shipments rose 1%.

The Financial Times said Apple has now shipped more than 1bn iPhones, iPads and iPods running its iOS operating system that launched in 2007.

“Our exceptional results produced EPS growth of 48% over last year, and $33.7bn in operating cash flow during the quarter, an all-time record,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO. “We spent over $8bn on our capital return program, bringing total returns to investors to almost $103bn, over $57bn of which occurred in just the last 12 months.”

Apple is providing the following guidance for its fiscal 2015 second quarter:

  • revenue between $52bn and $55bn
  • gross margin between 38.5% and 39.5%
  • operating expenses between $5.4bn and $5.5bn
  • other income/(expense) of $350m
  • tax rate of 26.3%

Results detail

Apple's share price rose by 5.74% in after-hours trading. At close of normal business the firm was valued at $651bn.

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