Another strong quarter for Apple; credit strong iPhone, Mac sales

updated: Apple said today that Mac computers and iPhones saw strong year-over-year sales jumps in the fourth quarter, allowing the company to once again beat Wall Street's expectations for the quarter and sending the stock surging in after-hours trading.Apple today reported fourth quarter earnings of $1.

updated: Apple said today that Mac computers and iPhones saw strong year-over-year sales jumps in the fourth quarter, allowing the company to once again beat Wall Street's expectations for the quarter and sending the stock surging in after-hours trading.

Apple today reported fourth quarter earnings of $1.67 billion, or $1.82 per share, on sales of $9.87 billion, up from $7.9 billion in the year ago quarter. Wall Street analysts had been expecting an eps of $1.42 on revenue of $9.2 billion. (Statement, Techmeme)

For the fiscal year, the company reported earnings of $5.7 billion, or $6.29 per share, on sales of 36.5 billion, up from $32.5 billion last year. In a statement Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said:

We are delighted with our September quarter and fiscal 2009 results. For the full year, we grew revenue by 12 percent and net income by 18 percent in extraordinarily challenging times.

Looking forward, Oppenheimer said it expects revenue for Q1 2010 to be between $11.3 billion to $11.6 billion and earnings per share of $1.70 to $1.78.

The fourth quarter was a busy one for Apple. Steve Jobs made his first public public appearance since undergoing a liver transplant during a medical leave of absence earlier this year. Jobs hosted a a September event in San Francisco, where he announced a refresh to the iTunes and the iPod line. During the quarter, the company also released Snow Leopard and plans for the iPhone in China were unveiled as China Unicom said it reached a three-year deal to sell the 3G and 3GS in the country. It also faced Washington regulators in the ongoing questions over the Google Voice app for the iPhone/iPod Touch.

Among the highlights from the quarter:

Mac sales: The company shipped 3.05 million Mac computers, up 17 percent from the year ago quarter. In its third quarter reports, IDC and Gartner showed market share gains for Apple in the U.S., up to 9.4 percent, a year-over-year gain of nearly 12 percent.

iPod: The company sold 10.2 million iPods during the quarter, an eight percent unit drop from a year ago. RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky has said in an investor's note that he sees iPods as a shrinking market - despite the addition of one with video recording capabilities - that's being replaced by interest in the iPhone and other smartphones. Analysts had expected sales of 9.9 million iPods.

iPod Touch: The company doesn't break out iPod Touch sales but did say that sales were up 100 percent and that the company anticipates greater growth with the new $199 entry-point price tag.

iPhone: The company sold 7.4 million iPhones in the quarter, a seven percent jump over a year ago. During the quarter, China Unicom announced a three-year deal to sell the iPhone in the planet's most populated country.

Corporate: Google CEO Eric Schmidt resigned from Apple's Board of Directors on concerns that the competitive landscape between the two companies (notably the Android smartphone vs. iPhone and Mac OS X vs, the forthcoming Chrome OS.)

Accounting: During a call with analysts, executives explained changes in accounting rules that will likely benefit Apple as it allows the revenue from iPhones and Apple TV to be recognized immediately, instead of over a 24-month period. Adopted earlier this year, companies have until this time next year to adopt the new accounting processes. Apple said it believes the new rules will allow a better reflection of its performance - and analysts believe the numbers will increase Apple's earnings - but is still looking into how it will transition. It does not yet have a set timeframe for the changover and the forecasts for the next quarter reflect the deferred revenue method.

Shares of Apple were up less than one percent in regular trading, closing at $189.86. Shares were surging in after-hours trading, up more than eight percent.

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