Apple Reports 78% Profit Gain But Lowers Outlook

Apple reported a 78% surge in quarterly profit but lowered guidance for the current quarter's results.

Apple, known for giving cautious forecasts, said it expects earnings per share in the current quarter of 54 cents to 56 cents and revenue of $4.8 billion to $4.9 billion. Consensus estimates put Apple's second quarter per-share profit at 60 cents.

"The guidance is pretty conservative, more so than what people were expecting," said American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu. "The iPod business is stronger than most
people were expecting."

Analyst Shannon Cross of Cross Research said she was not concerned about what appeared to be a cautious forecast but was curious whether Apple's gross margin in the first quarter of 31.2% was sustainable.

Apple said net income for its fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 30 rose to $1.004 billion, or $1.14 a share, from $565 million, or 65 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue rose to $7.12 billion from $5.75 billion.

A consensus estimate compiled by Thomson First Call predicted Apple reporting a first-quarter profit of 78 cents a share. The results compared with Apple's own earlier forecast of earnings per share of 70 cents to 73 cents and revenue of $6.0 billion to $6.2 billion.

The most recent quarter was Apple's first-ever with profits reaching $1 billion. Apple shipped 1.6 million Macs and more than 21 million iPods during the quarter, representing growth of 28% and 50% respectively from the year-ago holiday season.

Sanford Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi had forecast Apple to ship 17.5 million iPods in the December quarter, which represents a 25% increase from a year ago, and Mac unit
shipments of 1.68 million, or a 34% increase.

Apple is coming off its annual Macworld conference, where it generated more buzz than usual this year when Chief Executive Steve Jobs unveiled a much-anticipated multimedia device called the iPhone, which goes on sale for $500 to $600 in June.

In after-hours trading, Apple shares initially shot up after the release of its earnings results, but later fell below its close of $94.95 after the cautious forecast that disappointed investors was issued.