Relief for Apple as sales soar

APPLE beat expectations with its quarterly results yesterday, buoyed by strong Christmas figures that saw the company sell 7.3m iPads, 16.2m iPhones and 19.5m iPods during the period.

Analysts had expected earnings per share (EPS) of $3.95 versus an actual EPS of $4.64. Revenues were $26.7bn (£16.7bn) compared with a consensus forecast of $24bn.

Apple executives will hope that the earnings, which were released after markets closed yesterday, will give the company’s stock some relief after the news on Monday that chief executive Steve Jobs is to take sick leave.

Apple shares fell 6.3 per cent in early trading before closing 2.3 per cent lower in response to the news about Jobs, but were up 1.3 per cent in after hours trading and could regain their losses today on the back of the firm’s strong results.

Sale of iPhones, in particular, rocketed above expectations, recording an 86 per cent jump on the equivalent quarter a year ago. The company had a particularly strong showing internationally: 62 per cent of revenues were from outside the US.

“We had a phenomenal holiday quarter with record Mac, iPhone and iPad sales,” said Jobs, Apple’s chief executive. “We are firing on all cylinders and we’ve got some exciting things in the pipeline for this year.”

The bottom line was also helped by a fall in gross margins, which came to 38.5 per cent versus 40.9 last year.

The only major decline in product sales was among iPods: seven per cent fewer were sold during last quarter than during the equivalent period of 2009. Investors will now have to balance the strong business growth with the departure of Jobs, seen as Apple’s mastermind.