iMac helps Apple beat the street in Q3

Strong sales of its popular iMac computers helped drive Apple to its seventh consecutive profitable quarter, the company said on Wednesday.

For its third fiscal quarter, which ended June 26, Apple posted a profit of $US114 million, or 69 cents per share, excluding non-recurring items. This compares to last year's profit of $US75 million, or 50 cents per diluted share, also excluding non-recurring items.

The results beat the expectations of Wall Street analysts, according to financial watchdog First Call. Nineteen brokers polled by First Call produced a consensus estimate of 64 cents per share.

Apple's revenues for the quarter were $US1.56 billion, up 11 per cent from the same period last year. Non-US sales accounted for 45 per cent of the quarter's revenues, Apple said.

The current quarter's results included an $US89 million after-tax gain from the sale of 10 million shares of ARM Holdings. Including this after-tax gain, Apple's profit would have been $US203 million, or $US1.20 per diluted share, the company said.iMac sales helped drive overall unit growth 40 per cent over the prior year. This compares to market research firm International Data Corporation's (IDC) worldwide industry growth forecast of 21 per cent, according to Apple.

"We are delighted to report our seventh consecutive profitable quarter," Steve Jobs, Apple's interim chief executive officer, said in a statement. "Apple is growing faster than the industry, driven by the continued success of iMac in our consumer and education markets."

Apple ended the quarter with a cash balance of more than $US3.1 billion, Apple said.

The company also announced today a plan to repurchase up to $US500 million of its common stock.

Apple's stock was up 2.25 points to $US55.94 on the Nasdaq stock exchange on Wednesday.http://www.apple.com/.

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