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Apple's $8.2B profit disappoints Wall Street

Fri, 10/26/2012 - 3:14pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

Apple's fiscal fourth-quarter financials couldn't keep pace with Wall Street's expectations.

The company's stock fell to just over $600 yesterday on sales of 14 million iPads and a net profit of $8.2 billion, or $8.67 per diluted share. Analysts had been expecting $8.3 billion in profits and sales of 15 million iPads.

Revenue for the quarter was $36 billion, up 7.7 percent annually, or 27 percent.

Apple sold 26.9 million iPhones, compared with 17.1 million in the previous September quarter, which represents 58 percent year-over-year growth. While the company did not break out iPhone 5 sales, the company said the latest model was available in nine countries on Sept. 21 and will be available in 22 more countries on Sept. 28.

Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer called demand for the iPhone 5 "phenomenal," according to a transcript of Thursday’s earnings call provided courtesy of Seeking Alpha.

Indeed, the iPhone 5 might have been too popular for its own good. Aside from slowing growth, investors have also been worrying about Apple's ability to keep up with demand for its new phone.

"We are in a significant state of backlog right now," confirmed Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Cook went on to say that production has improved significantly since earlier this month, adding that it’s difficult to predict when supply and demand will come into balance.

The company's earnings come in the wake of this week's iPad mini announcement, which didn't impress investors either. Amid worries of cannibalization of the company's larger iPads, Wall Street balked at the mini's $329 starting price tag, which overshoots other 7-inch models on the market by $75 to $100.

Apple has also been losing its early dominance of the media tablet markets. Strategy Analytics today released a report that showed Apple's iOS operating system was installed on about 64 percent of all tablets in the third quarter of 2011 but has since slipped to 54 percent in the third quarter of 2012. Meanwhile, Android grew its share of the market from 29 percent to 41 percent over the past year.

Julien Blin, directing analyst of consumer electronics and mobile broadband for Infonetics Research, said in emailed comments that regardless of what Apple's stock did, Thursday's earnings represent the kind of numbers that indicate a continued dog fight for market share between Apple and Samsung, the company's nearest competitor in the high-end smartphone market.

"The battle between Samsung and Apple is set to be fierce in Q1 FY13, leaving breadcrumbs to the other OEMs," Blin said.

Indeed, Apple has what could be considered its first formidable opponent in Samsung, which today reported a 91 percent jump in profits for its third quarter.

Blin suggests that worries over Apple's slower growth have been overblown, stressing markets like Brazil and China as possible areas where the company can expand its business.

"Should Apple manage to forge a deal with China Mobile, which captures the vast majority (120 million subscribers) of the high-end mobile customer base in China, it would be a major wildcard and driver for iPhone and mini iPad sales for years to come," Blin said.

Shares of Apple were trading at $609 in early trading, well short of the 52-week high of $705 per share seen back in September.

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