Apple shares have tumbled, wiping $US50 billion off the tech giant's market value after it 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 $US13.07 billion ($A12.39 billion) on revenue of $US54.5 billion in the fiscal quarter that ended on December 29. The company sold 47.8 million iPhones and 22.9 million iPads, setting new quarterly records.
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Apple results confirm fears
A revenue shortfall and disappointing iPhone sales triggered heavy selling of Apple shares as investors fear Apple's products are losing their magic.
But shares fell 10 per cent to $463 in after-hours trading, wiping out some $50 billion of its market value from its $514 close in New York.
Apple's stock has been in a downward spiral since hitting a record level above $US700 in September 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.
Chief executive Tim Cook was upbeat about the results.
"We're thrilled with record revenue of over $54 billion and sales of over 75 million iOS devices in a single quarter,'' he said.
"The most important thing is that our customers love our products,'' he 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.''
But the quarterly revenue slightly missed Wall Street expectations with those record sales coming in below target and Apple shares dropped 10 per cent to $US463 in after-market trading, weighing heavily on the Nasdaq futures, which are down 1.7 per cent.
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And the big downside for investors was Apple's forecast that revenue for the current quarter would range from $US41 billion to $US43 billion and a gross margin of from 37.5 to 39.5 per cent.
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 [million] were disappointing,'' he said, noting the brokerage's estimate of 53 million.
"It's going to call into question Apple's dominance in the space. It's still one of the strong players, the others being Samsung and Google. It's still a two-horse race, but Android continues to grow rapidly,'' said Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu.
"If you step back a bit, it's clear they shipped a lot of phones. But the problem is the high expectations that investors have. Apple's conservative guidance highlights the concerns over production cuts coming out of Asia recently.''
Sources this month have pointed to production cutbacks at Apple's component suppliers as a sign that demand may be waning for the iPhone, which accounts for half of the company's sales, and the iPad.
The disappointing numbers come after Apple undershot revenue targets in the previous two quarters. The results will prompt more questions on what Apple has in its product pipeline, and what it can do to attract new sales and maintain its growth trajectory.
"It's going to call into question whether we have seen the peak of Apple," said Shaw Wu, an analyst with Sterne Agee & Leach Inc.
"One quarter can't answer that question, but the concern will be heard louder until proven otherwise, and that will weigh on the stock."
The lack of profit growth reflects higher manufacturing costs due to a product lineup overhaul ahead of the holiday shopping season. The first quarter is usually Apple's most lucrative, and the company introduced the iPhone 5, iPad mini and restyled Mac to draw customers.
For the fiscal second quarter, which is now under way, Apple forecast sales of $41 billion to $43 billion. That compares with predictions by analysts for revenue of $45.5 billion. The company didn't provide a profit forecast.
With the cost of redesigning its products, Apple's gross margins, the percentage of sales remaining after deducting costs of production, was 38.6 per cent in the first quarter, above the 36 per cent the company had predicted in October.
Apple also sold 4.1 million Macs and 12.7 million iPods. Analysts had predicted the sale of 5.1 million Macs and 11.4 million iPods.
Today's results compare with the 2011 holiday quarter, which was a week longer than the 13-week period just reported.
Initial iPhone 5 sales were lower than some investors anticipated due to supply shortages, and consumers criticised new mapping software. That contributed to the stock slide since an intraday high on September 21, said Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital Markets.
The company overhauled its management structure to fire longtime mobile-software head Scott Forstall, and reports that Apple has been cutting orders of components also led some to believe demand is falling, White said.
"It has been an avalanche of bad news and at some point it just has to stop," White said.
AAP, AFP, Reuters, Bloomberg