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Weak outlook tarnishes Apple's results

Jan 24 2013 07:59 AFP

Apple CEO Tim Cook. Photo: bloomberg

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San Francisco - Apple shares tumbled on Wednesday after the tech giant posted record profits and sales of its iPhones and iPads but offered a disappointing forecast for the coming months.

Apple said it made a profit of $13.1bn on revenue of $54.5bn in the fiscal quarter that ended on December 29 as sales of iPhones and iPads set quarterly records.

The California-based company reported that it sold 47.8 million iPhones and 22.9 million iPad tablet computers in the closing months of last year.

"We're thrilled with record revenue of over $54bn and sales of over 75 million iOS devices in a single quarter," said Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

Some investors soured on Apple, however, after it forecast that revenue for the current quarter would range from $41bn to $43bn and a gross margin of from 37.5% to 39.5%.

Peter Misek, analyst at Jefferies, said Apple's results topped the consensus "but fell short of our estimates."

"In particular iPhone shipments of 47.8 were disappointing," he said, noting the brokerage's estimate of 53 million.

Apple shares dropped 8.5% to $470.30 in after-market trading that followed release of the earnings results.

"The most important thing is that our customers love our products," Cook said in an earnings call with financial analysts.

"Not just buy them; love them," he continued. "Everyone at Apple has their eyes on the future."

Apple's stock has been in a downward spiral since hitting a record level above $700 last year, amid concerns that the technology icon is losing its edge in innovation, and that rivals are catching up or beating Apple in key segments.

Recently, the iPhone 5 made a lackluster debut in China and an analyst reported that Apple has cut orders for smartphone parts.

Apple remains the world's most valuable company but its image has been hit by several factors, including an embarrassing release of its glitch-ridden maps program for the new iPhone.

A survey last month showed Google's Android operating system will power more than two-thirds of smartphones sold worldwide in 2012, and will remain the dominant platform for at least the next four years.

The survey by the research firm IDC showed Android will be the platform for 68.3% of smartphones shipped in 2012, far ahead of 18.8% for the iOS platform used on Apple's iPhone.

Brian White at Topeka Capital Markets remained upbeat on Apple.

"There is quite a bit of bad news priced into the stock at current levels," he said.

White said iPhone sales were better than his recently boosted estimates but that iPad sales were below his projections of 24.5 million for the quarter.

White said he was unfazed by Apple's "signature conservative outlook" and that the company is likely to get a lift from what he believes will be a new iPhone launch in May or June, and an "iPad refresh" in March.

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