Apple reports record Q4 profits, but misses expectations

Despite setting more records, Apple missed analyst estimates and the company's stock dropped
Darren Allan

October 19, 2011

Of late, Apple has been reporting bumper quarter after quarter in terms of its fiscal results.

And the company has set the bar so high for itself these days, that it’s managed to still achieve a record quarter, yet underperform lofty analyst expectations.

Apple announced its fourth quarter fiscal results late yesterday, for the quarter ending last month, and posted revenue of $28.27 billion. That was up 39% on Q4 a year ago, when the company turned over $20.34 billion.

Yet analysts were expecting them to do over $1 billion more than this, so the result was something of a shock to Wall Street.

The combination of Apple missing instead of exceeding a target immediately led investors to link Steve Jobs’ absence with “lesser” profits, perhaps. Shares fell heavily, around 7%, although that will be a temporary situation we’d imagine.

The real reason behind the missed target is the fact that the quarter ran up to the launch of the new iPhone – which was expected to be the iPhone 5, or even two iPhones, a budget 4S and full-fat 5. So not many iPhone 4 models were being sold in Q4.

Apple sold 17 million iPhones in the quarter, which still represented a 21% growth in terms of units shifted year-on-year. 11 million iPads were also flogged, with which was up 166%. Mac computers were also up substantially, to the tune of 26%, with nearly 5 million sold.

Apple’s quarterly net profit was $6.62 billion, up from $4.31 billion since last year’s Q4, with a gross margin of 40%.

Not unhealthy figures, particularly given the iPhone situation, but you’d never be able to tell that from stock traders’ reactions.

Tim Cook, Apple’s new CEO, pointed to the 4S which is going to massively buoy sales this current quarter – it’s already shifted 4 million in one weekend.

He said: “We are thrilled with the very strong finish of an outstanding fiscal 2011, growing annual revenue to $108 billion and growing earnings to $26 billion. Customer response to iPhone 4S has been fantastic, we have strong momentum going into the holiday season, and we remain really enthusiastic about our product pipeline.”

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