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Apple Profit Easily Beats Estimates On Strong Mac, iPod Sales

Appleposted a higher quarterly profit Wednesday and an unexpected rise in its profit margin as the company saw strong sales of its Macintosh computers and also sold 270,000 iPhones.

Chief Executive Steve Jobs also said the company hoped to sell a million iPhones by the end of the first full quarter of sales.

Apple iPhone
Manuel Balce Ceneta
Apple iPhone

Shares of Apple were up more than 9 percent in volatile extended trading.

"Apple destroyed numbers for this quarter. Its Mac numbers were very strong and above expectations. Guidance on the EPS (earnings per share) was weaker than expected but the question is what are they factoring into that. Their gross margin at 37 percent was extremely strong and bodes well for HP and Dell from a commodity-price perspective," said Shannon Cross, an analyst at Cross Research.

Apple's net income for its fiscal third quarter was $818 million, or 92 cents per share, compared with $472 million, or 54 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue was $5.41 billion, up 24 percent from $4.37 billion a year earlier.

Apple had been expected to earn $644.4 million, or 72 cents per share, on revenue of $5.29 billion, according to the average analyst forecast on Reuters Estimates.

Gross profit margin was 36.9 percent, up from the 35.1 percent the company achieved in the previous quarter, a show of strength that the company had not predicted.

Apple also estimated earnings of about 65 cents per share on revenue of about $5.7 billion for its fiscal fourth quarter.

Apple said it shipped 1.76 million Macintosh computers in the quarter, a rise of 33 percent from a year earlier.

Shipments of iPods were 9.82 million, up 21 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Shares of Apple have risen 62 percent since the start of the year, when Chief Executive Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone and announced a goal of selling 10 million units in 2008. The shares trade at 30 times its expected 2009 profit, a level most analysts say represents a rich valuation.

iPhone Goes to Europe

Apple still plans to launch the iPhone in Europe in the fourth quarter of this year and expects to sell 10 million iPhones worldwide in 2008, Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said Wednesday.

Apple would debut the combination mobile phone, media player and Web browser in a few European countries at first, then expand to more nations in 2008, Oppenheimer said, adding that the company would announce European partners in the coming months.

The iPhone went on sale on June 29 but its impact on Apple's results was limited because it was available only in the last two days of the quarter and sales will be booked as subscription revenue over two years.

It sold 270,000 iPhones in the two days.

Sam Rahman, portfolio manager at Baring Asset Management in Boston, said the forecast for 1 million iPhone sales by the end of the first full quarter of sales was "a very big number" and predicted shares would move higher.

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