Apple net income soars 27%
Maker of iPods and Macs reports solid sales, earnings for the fourth quarter; shares rally after hours.
By Grace Wong, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Apple Computer's profit soared 27 percent in the latest quarter on strong sales of its Macintosh computers and iPod digital music players, the company said Wednesday.

Apple reported net income surged to $546 million, or 62 cents a share, up from $430 million, or 50 cents a share, in the same period last year. Revenue jumped nearly 32 percent to $4.84 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30.

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Apple (Charts) shares climbed 4.5 percent in extended trade on the results, which were released after the market close.

The results handily beat Wall Street's expectations. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had forecast earnings per share of 51 cents on revenue of $4.67 billion for the company's fiscal fourth quarter.

Looking ahead, Apple said it expects revenue of $6 billion to $6.2 billion in its fiscal first quarter and earnings per share of 70 to 73 cents a share.

Guidance was slightly below Wall Street's estimates, but Apple tends to be conservative with its forecasts, analysts said. Analysts expect earnings per share of 77 cents on revenue of $6.44 billion for the first quarter.

Solid shipments

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple said Mac shipments surged, climbing 30 percent to 1.61 million during the quarter. Laptops led sales of Macs, accounting for $1.34 billion in revenue versus $869 million for desktops.

"Apple changed paths tonight from being forever a niche player in the computer business to now being on track to be a legitimate market share player," Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said.

Apple, which recently transitioned its entire line of Macs to include Intel (Charts) processors, trails PC market leaders Dell (Charts) and Hewlett-Packard (Charts) in terms of total shipments but has been rapidly growing its share of the market.

That's largely due to the popularity of iPods, which have exposed more people to the Mac platform, Munster said.

iPod sales remained a solid source of growth for the company. Apple said it shipped 8.73 million iPods during the fourth quarter, up 35 percent from the same period last year.

iPod sales have slowed from the skyrocketing growth of the past, but the quarterly results suggest there's still strength in the market.

"I don't see any end in sight. That market has plenty of juice," said Roger Kay, president of technology consulting firm Endpoint Technologies Associates.

Retail sales also were a bright spot for Apple, which said revenue at its stores climbed to $934 million in the quarter, up 41 percent from the same period last year.

New products

Apple could face stiffer competition in the digital music space this holiday season with Microsoft (Charts) set to debut its so-called iPod killer named Zune next month.

But CEO Steve Jobs provided an upbeat view. "Looking forward, 2007 is likely to be one of the most exciting new product years in Apple's history," he said in a statement.

Apple's recent product rollouts include a movie download service it launched in September and an updated line of its iPods.

The company also said Wednesday its new iTV gadget - which allows movies downloaded from iTunes to be streamed wirelessly from the PC or Mac to a large-screen TV in another room - would ship in the first calendar quarter of 2007.

The company finished an internal review of its stock option practices earlier this month and said grants made on 15 dates between 1997 and 2002 appear to be irregular. The company said it will probably have to restate its past financial results.


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