Apple beats on earnings, but revenue misses
Guidance from maker of Macs and iPods is light but its shares still rally in after-hours trading.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Apple Computer reported net earnings jumped 41 percent in the latest quarter Wednesday, topping forecasts on Wall Street, but it issued a lukewarm forecast for the current quarter thanks to its ongoing transition to Intel chips for its computers.
The maker of iPods and Mac computers reported earnings of 47 cents a share for its fiscal second quarter ended April 1, up from 34 cents in the prior year above analysts' average forecast of 43 cents a share, according to a survey by Thomson First Call. Net income jumped to $410 million from $290 million in the year-earlier quarter.
But while revenue jumped to $4.36 billion from $3.2 billion a year earlier, the latest number missed average forecasts of $4.5 billion.
Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., shipped 1.1 million Macs in the quarter, just below Wall Street analysts' expectations of about 1.2 million, owing to a slowdown in demand as customers put off buying older models in favor of waiting for new Mac models containing Intel chips. The company said its entire Mac line will make the switch to Intel chips by the end of the year.
And Apple said it expects $4.2 billion to $4.4 billion in revenue for the current quarter, below analysts' expectations of $4.72 billion, and earnings per share of 39 cents to 43 cents, after a 4-cent charge for stock-based compensation. Analysts had been forecasting profit of 47 cents a share for the current quarter.
Apple also reported a better-than-expected gross margin of nearly 30 percent, thanks to falling prices on the NAND flash memory that goes into some of its iPods, higher-than-expected software sales, and lower-than-expected costs related to the Intel transition.
The company announced iPod shipments of 8.52 million in its second quarter, slightly below many analysts' expectations of 8.8 million to 10 million, said Daniel Morgan, a portfolio manager with Synovus Investment Advisors, whose funds own shares of Apple.
"This is a transition quarter," said Morgan, referring to the company's move to Intel-based processors in its Mac computers, which began this quarter. "This is somewhat of a challenging quarter for Apple because of the transition. They had a little bit of a miss on the iPod shipments, so that was a little disappointing."
Still, iPod shipments soared 61 percent from the year-earlier quarter. The company reported that its iTunes music store sold its 1 billionth song in the quarter and said it now accounts for 87 percent of the market for legally downloaded music, citing research from Nielsen.
This is the first quarter that Apple shipped Macs with Intel chips, six months ahead of schedule. The Intel-based iMac desktop debuted in January, the MacBook Pro laptop started shipping on Feb. 14 and the Intel-based Mac mini debuted on March 1.
On a conference call, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer acknowledged that some customers delayed buying Macs that haven't been switched to Intel chips, and that others may be waiting until some software created specifically for Intel-based Macs by other companies, such as Adobe, became available.
Oppenheimer added that the company's retail stores focused on the Intel transition, adding that sales reps in the company's retail stores were "not discouraged" from telling customers to wait for Intel-based Macs to come out rather than buying older models, which added to the slowdown in demand.
"As we anticipated, this pause was more evident during the March quarter," he said.
Analysts expect the move to eventually boost sales, but they think it will continue to cause disruptions in sales until the entire Mac line is transitioned.
Earlier this month, Apple released a beta version of software that will let users of Intel-based Macs run both the OS X operating system as well as Windows XP, a move that many analysts think could spark gains in Apple's market share, currently estimated to be about 2.3 percent world wide.
Analysts and investors said they had expected some weakness in demand during the March quarter as customers put off buying some popular Mac computers, such as the iBook, until the Intel-based models are released later in the year.
"It's not that surprising that Apple wasn't up to par because they went through the transition from Power PC (chips) to Intel," said Samir Bhavnani, director of research for Current Analysis, a technology research firm. Bhavnani does not own shares of Apple, and his firm does not do investment banking business.
"The overall numbers were fantastic -- profits are rising, they exceeded expectations on earnings and they alluded to new music devices as well," he said. Bhavnani expects Apple to release a new iPod in time for the back-to-school selling season, as well as new Macs.
Joel Binder, chief investment officer with Old Second Wealth Management, noted that it was a slower quarter for Apple than the prior-year quarter because of the Intel transition. But like some other investors, Binder believes Apple's prospects are stronger for the second half of the year. Binder does not own shares of Apple but is considering adding shares to his firm's portfolios.
"They didn't give us flag waving and cheerleaders this quarter... but the numbers were positive overall," he said. "We are looking at third and fourth quarters as the time the stock starts to see the benefits of this transition and continued innovation."
Apple's Oppenheimer also said the company plans to open 40 new retail stores in the current fiscal year, mostly in the U.S. And traffic at the existing stores soared to 18.1 million visitors in the latest quarter, from 13 million a year earlier.
For more on Wednesday's tech earnings, click here.