Apple’s iPhone sales rise, but Q4 earnings fall
The company is under pressure to develop a new blockbuster product.
The New York Times and Bloomberg News
SAN FRANCISCO — Unlike past years, Apple released two new iPhones in September instead of just one. The company’s financial earnings report Monday offered the first hints that the new strategy might result in stronger overall revenue.
Apple reported revenue of $37.5 billion in the latest quarter, its fourth quarter, up from $36 billion in the same quarter a year ago.
Still, the two phones did not help lift the company’s profit. Apple earned $7.5 billion, or $8.26 a diluted share, in the latest quarter, down from $8.2 billion, or $8.67 a diluted share, during the same quarter last year.
The company said it sold 33.8 million iPhones, up from 26.9 million in the same quarter last year. Wall Street analysts had expected that Apple would sell 29 million to 38 million new iPhones.
Apple, which is grappling with lower-priced products from Samsung, Nokia and others, is under pressure to reignite growth and maintain its margins with a new blockbuster product.
“People aren’t going to be excited until they see a definitive return to growth,” said Daniel Ernst, an analyst at Hudson Square Research in New York.
Shares of Apple fell as much as 5.1 percent in after-hours trading after the results were released.
The shares later climbed back to near their closing level of $529.88 after Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said margins would have been better if not for a new accounting method Apple is using for software. The stock is down 25 percent from a record in September 2012 following the debut of the iPhone 5.
Apple forecast that gross margins will be 36.5 to 37.5 percent, compared with 38 percent predicted by analysts.
The company’s lower profit may be because of slightly lower sales of Macs.
Apple said it sold 4.6 million Macs, compared with 4.9 million in the same quarter last year. Apple’s iPad sales were roughly flat, at 14.1 million, but overall revenue for its iPads declined 13 percent.
The company beat the expectations of Wall Street analysts.
They had expected earnings of $7.93 a share and revenue of $36.84 billion, according to a survey of analysts by Thomson Reuters.
“We’re pleased to report a strong finish to an amazing year with record fourth-quarter revenue, including sales of almost 34 million iPhones,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive.
Apple has positioned itself aggressively for the coming holiday quarter, the most lucrative time of year for hardware makers.
Following the release of the two iPhones in September, Apple is set to release two new iPads in November. It also released new Mac laptops last week.
In a conference call with analysts, CFO Oppenheimer said gross margins are being influenced by higher costs for new products, currency pressure from conversions in Japan, and an accounting change related to revenue adjustments for software that the company is now giving away for free with new iPhone, iPads and Macs.
Without the deferred revenue, Apple’s gross margin outlook would have been about 38 percent, Oppenheimer said.
“We’re going to work hard to work down the cost curve,” he said.
Apple investors are facing a new dynamic in which the company’s growth has slowed, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, which has $66 billion under management and owns Apple shares.
“This is a company that has routinely blown the doors off their estimates so meeting or just exceeding is probably a disappointment,” he said.