Apple Posts Strong Q4 Results

The company reports a 27 percent increase in profits compared with last year's fourth quarter, driven by Mac and iPod sales.

Riding a quarter of strong Macintosh sales, Apple Computer reported Oct. 18 that its fourth-quarter revenue grew 31 percent compared to the same period last year.

The Cupertino, Calif., computer maker reported revenue of $4.84 billion compared with $3.68 billion in 2005. The company said this years quarterly net profit in the fourth quarter stood at $546 million or 62 cents a share, compared with a profit of $430 million or 50 cents a share last year.

Overall, profit increased about 27 percent compared to last year. The 2006 fourth quarter ended on Sept. 30.

Apple, which sold 1.61 million Macs in the quarter along with 8.7 million iPod music players, beat Wall Street estimates. Thomson First Call, of Thomson, headquartered in Stamford, Conn., had forecast earnings of 51 cents a share on revenue of $ 4.67 billion.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to see what some analysts were saying before Apples fourth-quarter results.

In its quarterly report, Apple said its Mac sales increased 30 percent from last year, while iPod sales increased 35 percent compared with the fourth quarter of 2005. It was also the second straight quarter of record Mac sales.

"This strong quarter caps an extraordinary year for Apple. Selling more than 39 million iPods and 5.3 million Macs while performing an incredibly complex architecture transition is something we are all very proud of," CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement.

Despite the glowing outlook, Apple did caution that the numbers it presented were preliminary and said it might need to issue a restatement of the results due to an ongoing internal investigation into how stocks were distributed to top executives.

On Oct. 4, former Apple Chief Financial Officer Fred Anderson resigned from the board and CEO Steven Jobs issued an apology following the release of the internal investigation.

However, analysts do not believe the internal investigation will affect the company. Just before the quarterly results were announced, Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co., wrote that Jobs would stay in his position.

"We believe the options backdating issue is in Apples rearview mirror and Steve Jobs will remain Apples CEO," Munster wrote. "Although these issues tarnish Apples squeaky-clean image, they do not impact the companys underlying fundamentals."

Apple did give predications for the coming first quarter of 2007. CFO Peter Oppenheimer said the company was expecting revenue of $6 to $6.2 billion with earnings per share of 70 to 73 cents.

Analysts currently expect a first-quarter profit of 77 cents per share, on average, within a range of 62 cents to 84 cents, on revenue of $6.43 billion, according to Reuters.

In a call with analysts after the results were announced, Oppenheimer said the 1.61 million Macs were the most Macs ever sold in one quarter in the history of the company. In the third quarter of this year, the company sold 1.3 million Macs, which had previously been the record.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about how Apple integrated the Mac with Intel.

Oppenheimer attributed the Mac sales to consumer demand following the nine-month conversion to Intel and a strong back-to-school push. He added that consumer interest in the iPod also helped build interest in the Mac, as did Apples retail stores, which generated more than $900 million in revenue during that quarter.

"Our latest survey showed that over 50 percent of customers buying Macs in the store were new to the Mac," Oppenheimer said.

The increase in iPod sales also proved that the company still maintained its dominance of the digital music market. Several analysts had predicted iPod sales of anywhere from 7.7 million to 8.5 million.

Apple sold 7.4 percent more iPods during the fourth quarter of this year than in the third. Oppenheimer told investors that the refreshed iPod line that was announced Sept. 12 helped boost sales.

The company also reported more than 1 million downloads of its Boot Camp software, which will allow a user to run the Microsoft Windows operating system on a Mac.

Company officials were quiet about what future products would debut in 2007. Oppenheimer did tell analysts that the company expects some competition in the music market during the holidays. Microsoft plans to release its Zune music player by Christmas.

Still, Apple officials were optimistic.

"We are very confident about what we have in the pipeline," Oppenheimer said.

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