Apple shares lost 5.6 percent of their value Wednesday after narrowly missing analyst estimates for fourth quarter earnings.
The decline erased $22 billion in value for the world's second most valuable company, lowering its market capitalization to $369.6 billion. The one-day swoon left Exxon Mobil's market value at $381.3 billiion, restoring it to first place.
Apple shares closed down $23.62 at $398.62 on volume exceeding 39 million. They set an all-time high of $426.70 last month.
Apple reported fourth quarter earnings of $7.05 a share, compared with $4.64 a year ago. Revenue was $28.27 billion compared with $20.3 billion. Analysts had predicted earnings around $7.31 a share.
The shortfall, Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer conceded, was attributable to consumer demand for whatever new iPhone the Cupertino, Calif.-based company planned to introduce this month. Anticipation of what had been expected to be the iPhone 5 but turned out to be the iPhone 4S tampered September sales, causing the slight profit drop.
Subsequently, Apple reported sales exceeding 4.4 million iPhone 4S units in just three days. The executives said they expect current quarter revenue to exceed a record $37 billion, which analysts Wednesday generally accepted.
Apple's full-year revenue was $108 billion, firmly establishing it as one of the world's top technology companies.
The results place Apple, the world's most valuable company many days this year, in a technology club whose only other current member is Hewlett-Packard. IBM, with 2010 revenue of $99.9 billion, will likely finish 2011 there, too.
Apple said it sold 17.1 million iPhone 4s, a 21 percent jump over last year, which indicates customers held off buying the old models. Some analysts ahd expected shipments of the old model would reach 21.5 million, a 300 percent gain over 2010.
Apple has already reported selling more than 4 million new iPhone 4S units. CEO Cook acknowledged sales of the old models eased noting the reduction happened largely in the back half of the quarter as the speculation hit extreme highs about the new model.
Analysts like Maynard Um at UBS had estimated iPhone shipments would be 21.5 million, nearly triple the third quarter amount.
Apple's cash and investments rose to $81.5 billion. Cook said he was not religious about its use and left the door open for more acquisitions, a stock buyback or a dividend.
We're not going to do silly things with the cash, Cook said..
Many technology giants like HP and IBM pay out healthy dividends. Microsoft paid out a special $30 billion dividend in 2004, set share buybacks and promised to spend $75 billion to enhance shareholder value.
Apple shares have already gained 23.6 percent this year and 425 percent since 2001.