Apple Delivers a Very Ripe Quarter

Remember all the foot-stomping tantrums and calls of “boycott!” after Apple suddenly cut the price of the iPhone last month?

So much for that, the Apple train continues to ride at full speed.

Apple on Monday beat analyst estimates for its fourth fiscal quarter, with record sales of Macintosh computers, iPods and yes, the iPhone. The reported $6.22 billion in revenue is up 28 percent from $4.84 billion in the fourth quarter of 2006.

Net income was $904 million, or $1.01 per share, up 66 percent from the $542 million, or $0.62 per share, of net income reported in Q4 2006. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial estimated a net income of about $760.45 million for around $0.84 per share.

For the year, Apple racked up $24 billion in sales and $3.5 billion in net income. It has $15 billion in cash and short term assets and no long-term debt.

It was an excellent quarter all around. The company shipped 2.16 million Macs during the quarter, a 34 percent growth over the same quarter last year. MacBooks, its notebook line, accounted for 62 percent of all Mac sales, according to Peter Oppenheimer, Chief Financial Officer of Apple.

Oppenheimer told analysts on a conference call that Apple ended the quarter with just three weeks of inventory thanks to its best ever back-to-school period. Back to school and higher education program results were their highest ever, he said.

On the music side of things, Apple sold 10.2 million iPods during the quarter, a 17 percent growth over the year-ago quarter, but only slightly aided by the rush of new iPods, as they came late in September, the final month of the quarter. iPods now account for 36 percent of Apple’s revenue.

The iTunes business continues to do well, with 43 million unique visitors last month, an 18 percent increase compared to the same month a year earlier, according to Nielsen Soundscan Online. Other music revenue, what Apple calls iTunes sales, grew 33 percent year-over-year. iTunes now accounts for 85 percent of all digital music downloads.

For the quarter, iPhone sales were 1.11 million for a total of 1.39 million total sold. Oppenheimer said sales did increase after the price cut, despite the kvetching on numerous blogs and message boards, but he declined to go into details. Apple launches the iPhone in England and Germany on November 2 and in France on November 29. It enters the Asian market next year. Oppenheimer said Apple expects to sell a total of 10 million iPhones next year.

The company continues to enjoy retail success through its stores and its partners, notably Best Buy. Apple’s 240 stores averaged $6.6 million in sales in the quarter, up from $5.6 million last year. More than 50 percent of its Mac sales were to new customers. Apple expects to open 40 more stores, including one in Beijing, in 2008. It also plans to expand the number of Apple mini-stores in Best Buy and the size of the stores.

Guidance for the December quarter was minimal and cautious, as Oppenheimer cited an expected slowness following the big back-to-school season. He said the cost of goods would be questionable in a few areas, citing flash, DRAM memory and LCD prices as all volatile. Apple’s big rollout this quarter will be Mac OS X 10.5, a.k.a. “Leopard.” Oppenheimer declined to predict its financial impact in the quarter. Leopard officially goes on sale this Friday at 6 pm.

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