Apple Q1 earnings top records, forecasts

Apple Inc., under a federal stock options probe, Wednesday reported a record $1 billion profit on $7.1 billion in revenue in first quarter financial results.

Apple, caught between the promise of its new iPhone and the peril of a stock options investigation, has reported record earnings for the first quarter of its fiscal 2007 year.

Apple posted net income of $U1 billion, or $US1.14 per diluted share, on revenue of $US7.1 billion, for the quarter ended December 31, 2006.

The consensus from financial analysts polled by Thomson Financial was for earnings of $US0.78 per share on revenue of $US6.42 billion in the first quarter.

These results compare to net income of $US565 million, or $US0.65 per diluted share, on revenue of $US5.7 billion, in the year-ago quarter.

The company, which dropped the name "computer" from its name to reflect its broadening array of consumer electronics products, such as its popular iPod music player, reported a gross margin of 31.2 per cent, up from 27.2 per cent in the year-ago quarter.

"These are stellar results," Apple CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, said.

Apple sold 1.6 million of its Macintosh computers and more than 21 million iPods in the quarter, which covered the holiday shopping season, up 28 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively, from the year ago quarter, Oppenheimer said.

Apple released its latest financial results one week after CEO, Steve Jobs, unveiled the new iPhone at the company's annual Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco. The iPhone, which is to go on sale in June in the U.S., combines a cellphone, a video and music iPod and an Internet connection device into one package. Apple said the phone would be available in the U.S. only through Cingular Wireless.

Although well received by Mac fans at the convention, some skeptics wonder whether, at a pricey $US499-$US599 plus Cingular subscription costs, it will find many buyers.

Apple was promptly sued in federal District Court in San Francisco by Cisco Systems, which claims the trademark to the name iPhone.

Oppenheimer characterised the suit as "silly" and Cisco's trademark claim as "tenuous at best".

Apple is also facing other legal jeopardy, as the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California confirmed Jan. 12 that it is investigating how Apple accounted for backdated stock options.

But of more than 30 questions from analysts on the conference call, only one concerned the options probe.

In response, Oppenheimer would only say that Apple is "proactively and voluntarily providing information to (investigators) of our own findings and answering their questions."

In a December 29, 2006, filing with the US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), Apple disclosed the results of a board internal investigation into backdating. It found that an October 2001 board meeting at which 7.5 million options for Jobs were granted never actually took place and that the options weren't officially granted until December of that year. Backdating the options grant date to October, though, gave Jobs an instant paper profit of about $US20 million because Apple stock was selling for less in October than it was in December.

Apple said it would restate $US84 million in earnings from 2006 to account for more than 6400 backdated stock option grants made between 1997 and 2002.

"The board of directors ... has complete confidence in Steve Jobs and the senior management team," stated the former US vice-president and the Apple director, Al Gore, who chaired the special internal investigative committee.

Apple forecast current quarter earnings per diluted share of between $US0.54 and $US0.56 on revenue of between $US4.8 billion and $US4.9 billion.

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