Apple Surpasses Wall Street Targets and Dispels iPhone Worries

Apple Inc’s quarterly profit almost doubled after a jump in iPhone sales, particularly for the greater China region, blowing past Wall Street expectations and soothing fears the device was past its best days for sharp growth.

Shares in Apple, the world’s most valuable technology company, shot up 8 percent in after-hours trade, after falling as much as 13 percent from a record high of $644 in the past two weeks.

The results prompted a slew of analysts to raise their target price for Apple.

Apple sold 35.1 million iPhones – which account for about half its revenue – in the quarter, outpacing around 30 million expected by Wall Street analysts. Pent-up demand for the iPhone 4S helped to lift revenue for China, Taiwan and Hong Kong five-fold. China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, is the only Chinese carrier that does not have a contract with Apple to sell iPhones.

Net income rose to $11.6 billion, or $12.30 a share, from $6 billion, or $6.40 per share, a year earlier.

Analysts noted that margins had also increased beyond expectations, despite some concerns they could suffer if Apple sold older models to ward off competition from lower priced Google Inc Android phones made by the likes of Motorola Mobility and Samsung Electronics.

Fiscal second-quarter revenue jumped to $39.2 billion, 59 percent more than a year earlier and 6.5 percent higher than analysts’ average forecasts.

Helped by lower-than-expected commodity costs, gross margins climbed to 47.4 percent from 41.4 percent a year earlier, above Wall Street’s average forecast of 42.8 percent, as Reuters stated.

“International iPhone sales were on fire,” Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer told Reuters in an interview, noting the five-fold increase in Greater China sales to $7.9 billion.

But sales of the iPad, the latest version of which hit store shelves in mid-March, came in at 11.8 million iPads, below an average forecast of up to 13 million.

The results came after its shares – long considered a must-have in most U.S. equity portfolios – declined over the past couple of weeks in unusually volatile trading, as investors fretted over potential competitive and pricing pressures.

Responding to concerns that wireless carriers may reduce subsidies for the iPhone, thereby lowering Apple’s profit margin, Chief Executive Tim Cook said the subsidies aren’t large when compared with what carriers can recoup from consumers over a 24-month contract period.

So-called churn, or the rate that customers switch from the iPhone to other models, is the lowest of any phone they sell, which has a “significant, direct financial benefit to the carrier,” Cook added.

As for patent litigation battles with rivals, Cook said he preferred to settle if Apple could get a fair settlement. The company is fighting court battles with several Android phone makers, including Samsung, HTC Corp and Motorola in the United States and other countries.

The company, which has said it will finally begin sharing its record cash hoard with investors via a quarterly dividend, added that $74 billion of its $110 billion in cash and securities was now parked outside the United States as of March 31.

Apple’s stock gained to $603.81 from a close of $560.28 on the Nasdaq but is still far below an intra-day high of $644 marked this month. Brokerages raising their target prices on the stock included Citigroup, which lifted its target to $720 from $700.


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