Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) reported Tuesday a 54 percent surge in fourth-quarter earnings on continued strong sales of its Macintosh computers, iPhones and iPad devices. But in a rare instance, its earnings and revenue came in below Wall Street's expectations.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant posted earnings of $6.62 billion or $7.05 per share, higher than last year's $4.31 billion or $4.64 per share. Sales jumped 39 percent to $28.27 billion.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected Apple to earn $7.28 per share on revenue of $29.45 billion for the fourth quarter.
Apple's Macintosh computers sales surged 26 percent to 4.89 million units, while iPhone sales grew 21 percent to 17.07 million units. iPad tablet sales climbed 166 percent to 11.12 million units, while iPod music players sales fell 27 percent to 6.62 million units.
We are extremely pleased with our record September quarter revenue and earnings and with cash generation of $5.4 billion during the quarter, Apple's Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said.
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said weakness in the fourth quarter was driven by lower sales from iPhone (17.1 million units versus estimates of 19.8 million units), iPod (6.6 million units versus estimates of 7.3 million units), and iPad (11.1 million units versus estimates of 11.5 million units). Though despite weakness in consumer PC spending, Mac sales were strong (4.9 million units versus estimates of 4.5 million units).
Misek said that the 2.7 million iPhone shortfall was mainly due to revenue recognition and iPhone 4S timing. He believes about 1.3 million iPhones were shipped to Sprint and KDDI, but revenues were not recognized as Apple would not allow them to be sold ahead of the iPhone 4S launch.
Misek also believes the September quarter end meant that initial shipments of iPhone 4S to carriers were not recognized.
Looking ahead into the first quarter, Apple anticipates earnings of about $9.30 per share and revenue of about $37 billion, while analysts predict $9.00 per share on revenue of $36.72 billion.
The latest iPhone reached the market Friday and achieved a sales record of 4 million units during the opening weekend. The sales of iPhone 4S will be appearing in Apple's first quarter results.
We believe the recognition of the Sprint and KDDI shipments and iPhone 4S channel fill could boost fiscal first quarter reported shipments by 3 million-plus. Also so far in October, 7 million-plus iPhones have been sold (4 million of them are the 4S), putting Apple on track to do over 30 million in fiscal first quarter, said Misek.
The brokerage raised its first quarter EPS estimate for Apple to $9.79 from $9.17 and its second quarter estimate to $7.43 from $7.01. The brokerage also increased its 2012 EPS estimate to $33.26 on revenue of $138.4 billion from $31.27 on revenue of $138.2 billion.
Management expects a favorable component environment (apart from casings) and a mix shift toward iPhones to boost fiscal first quarter margins, but that will be offset by the low-cost 3GS and the stronger U.S. dollar. Misek believes the low-cost 3GS shipments will ramp more substantially in fiscal second quarter, so there could be margin upside to fiscal first quarter.
Apple stock is trading down 5.02 percent at $401.05 in the early pre-market trading on the NASDAQ Stock Market.