Apple meets profit target, sees uncertainty ahead

Apple meets profit target, sees uncertainty ahead

Apple Computer yesterday reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings that exceeded analysts' estimates, ending a tough quarter for hardware vendors with some upward momentum in the education market and with its popular line of iBook notebook computers.

For its fiscal fourth quarter ending September 29, the US-based maker of Macintosh computers and software reported a net profit of $66 million, or $0.19 per share, on an adjusted basis. In the same quarter last year, Apple reported $170 million in adjusted profit, or $0.47 per share.

Sales for the quarter totalled $1.45 billion, down 22 per cent from the same quarter last year.

The consensus of 18 analysts polled by Thomson Financial/First Call was that Apple would report earnings of $0.16 per share on sales of $1.48 billion.

Apple shipped 850,000 hardware units during the quarter but saw a decline in every line of computers except its PowerMac G4 and iBook lines. The company sold more than 250,000 iBooks, up from 89,000 in the same quarter last year. Sales of those machines to schools tripled in the quarter, according to research firm International Data Corp.

In addition to gains in laptop sales, Apple also saw upward momentum during the quarter with the release of a tuned-up version of its Mac OS X operating system. Version 10.1 was widely released on September 25, along with a rush of native software applications to run on the operating system.

Apple also ramped up its new sales channel during the quarter with the opening of several retail outlets around the US. The company is still on target to open 25 stores by the end of the calendar year, Anderson said, but he noted sales through that channel will be affected by a loss of consumer confidence following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

International sales in the fourth quarter accounted for 41 per cent of Apple's total sales for the quarter. All of its markets, including the US, saw a decline in sales compared to the same quarter last year.

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