Apple Inc's profits and sales streaked past Wall Street forecasts as iPhone and Mac sales hit quarterly records, sending its shares rocketing to all-time highs on Monday.
Sales of Mac computers -- the largest single contributor to Apple's revenue -- jumped 17 percent from a year earlier to 3.05 million in the September quarter, above analysts' average estimate of about 2.8 million.
Sales of iPhones rose 7 percent to 7.4 million, just shy of Wall Street expectations of 7.5 million units. The company said it had a tough time making enough iPhones to meet demand.
These are huge numbers tonight. Apple is probably the best growth story in tech, maybe one of the best growth stocks in the market. I bet this stock can go to $250 in six to nine months, said Jane Snorek, analyst at First American Funds.
Usually Christmas and back-to-school are correlated and Apple usually has a gigantic Christmas quarter. This makes me think Apple will have a great Christmas.
Shares of Apple jumped 7.5 percent to above $204 in extended trading. It had closed at $189.86 on Nasdaq. The stock's record intraday high was $202.96 on December 27, 2007.
Apple's fiscal fourth quarter had marked the return of Chief Executive Steve Jobs to his offices at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California. The master showman had a liver transplant while on a six-month leave of absence.
Net profit rose to $1.67 billion, or $1.82 a share, in the quarter ended September 26, from $1.14 billion, or $1.26 a share, in the year-earlier period. Analysts were expecting a profit of $1.42 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Revenue rose 25 percent to $9.87 billion, ahead of the average Wall Street estimate of $9.2 billion.
Analysts had expected Apple to show continued resilience to the slump in consumer spending that had pummeled rivals. BlackBerry maker Research in Motion's quarterly report had disappointed shareholders, sending its shares tumbling. Nokia posted a quarterly loss.
Despite a high price point, Macs have been gaining share for years and are expected to continue to do so. According to industry tracker IDC, Apple holds 9.4 percent of the PC market in the United States.
The number of Macs sold shows that Windows 7 has not been a threat to the Apple franchise, said Shannon Cross of Cross Research, referring to Microsoft Corp's new operating system. These are phenomenal results. You know, it proves that even in a challenging economy people are willing to pay for what they perceive to be high quality product and a good value product.
Apple posted a gross margin of 36.6 percent, up from 34.7 percent a year ago. Wall Street had been expecting a margin of 35.5 percent.
Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said Apple also enjoyed stronger margins from higher-than-anticipated sales of its Snow Leopard operating system for Mac computers.
While we knew they were gaining share in those categories -- PCs and phones -- it's still surprising to see this degree of outperformance, said Daniel Ernst, an analyst with Hudson Square Research. But that's just part of the Apple story: they're gaining share with premium-priced products.
Apple's outlook is typically conservative, though its revenue forecast this quarter was not far off from Wall Street averages. Apple forecast current-quarter earnings of $1.70 to $1.78 a share on revenue of $11.3 billion to $11.6 billion, versus the Street's $1.91 a share on revenue of $11.4 billion.
I like the fact that even their guidance was very good. Normally their guidance is a little tepid, said Sushil Wagle, senior vice president at J&W Seligman. I think the stock is going to inch its way up to $250 ... slowly.
(Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Writing by Edwin Chan; Editing by Tiffany Wu and Richard Chang)