Apple Q4 profits boosted by iPhone and Mac sales

Sales of Mac computers and iPhones helped Apple report strong earnings in the fourth quarter.

Apple has reported strong earnings for its fourth quarter, boosted by record Macintosh computer sales and the shipment of 1.12 million iPhones.

The company beat analyst estimates with net income of US$904 million, or $1.01 per share, compared with US$542 million, or $0.62 per share, in net income reported in last year's fourth quarter. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial estimated a consensus of US$760.45 million in net income and earnings of $0.84 per share for the quarter ended Sept. 29.

The company reported US$6.22 billion in revenue, up from US$4.84 billion in the fourth quarter last year. The revenue consensus from analysts polled by Thomson was for US$6.07 billion.

For fiscal 2007, Apple reported net revenue of US$24 billion and net income of US$3.5 billion, said Peter Oppenheimer [CQ], Apple's chief financial officer, in a conference call with financial analysts.

Looking ahead, the company estimates that revenue will hit US$9.2 billion, with earnings per share of $1.42 for the first fiscal quarter of 2008, Oppenheimer said.

The company shipped 2.16 million Macs during the quarter, a 34 percent growth over the year-ago period, Apple said.

Mac sales increased worldwide, spurred by back-to-school promotions, said Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, on the call. In addition to rapid growth in the U.S. and Europe, Mac unit shipments also increased in Japan, a major market where Apple has traditionally struggled to grow, Cook said.

Shipment of Mac notebooks, including MacBook and MacBook Pro, grew 31 percent year-over-year and accounted for 62 percent of all Macs sold, Oppenheimer said.

Given the success of this back-to-school period, Mac sales could be flat in the upcoming quarter, Cook warned.

Sales of the iPhone are outpacing those of the iPod during the first few months after its 2001 introduction, Cook said. The company shipped 1.39 million iPhones during the year, and saw a spike in sales after a US$200 price drop of the 8G-byte iPhone from US$599 to $399 in September.

Apple is confident it will sell 10 million iPhones in the next calendar year, Cook said.

Apple sold 10.2 million iPods during the quarter, a 17 percent year-over-year growth. iPod has sold 120 million units to date, Oppenheimer said. The upcoming holiday shopping season will be a big quarter for iPod sales, Oppenheimer said.

Apple had a busy quarter with multiple product announcements.

Last month, it unveiled the iPod Touch, a portable multimedia player with a touchscreen user interface and Wi-Fi capabilities. It also announced availability of the iPhone in Europe, with U.K. network operator O2 (UK) Ltd. slated to start shipping the device in November.

The company is excited about entering the Europe market, and plans to enter the Asia-Pacific market in 2008, Cook said.

On the software front, Apple announced iWork '08, its office applications suite, in August. Mac OS X Leopard, Apple's latest operating system, will begin shipping later this week.

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