Apple posts strong Q4 results and healthy outlook on eve of iPhone X launch

With sales of the iPhone X getting under way, CEO Tim Cook says Apple's current quarter should be its "biggest quarter ever."
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Apple reported its fourth quarter financial results Thursday, surpassing market estimates. A day ahead of the iPhone X official launch date, Apple's outlook for the current quarter suggests production and sales of the smartphone should be strong.

The Cupertino company posted diluted earnings of $2.07 a share, up 24 percent year-over-year. Revenue came to $52.6 billion, an increase of 12 percent year-over-year.

Wall Street was looking for earnings of $1.87 a share on revenue of $46.9 billion.

For Q1 2018, Apple forecasts revenue between $84 billion and $87 billion and a gross margin between 38 percent and 38.5 percent.

"We expect it to be our biggest quarter ever," CEO Tim Cook said of the current quarter on a conference call Thursday.

Analysts were projecting Q1 revenue of $85.31 billion.

Apple's outlook for the current quarter have been highly anticipated, given the unusual circumstances of the latest iPhone release. The relatively expensive iPhone X (priced at $999) is launching less than two months after the release of the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus. Meanwhile, Apple has said demand for the new device is strong, but it's been unclear whether production will be able to keep up.

"Orders have already been very strong, and we're working to get iPhone X in peope's hands as quickly as possible," Cook said. Furthermore, he said, the latest device is "packed with technologies that chart our path for the next decade."

Later he added, "We're really happy we're able to increase week by week what we're outputting, and we're going to get as many of them as possible to customers as soon as possible." Asked to clarify on when supply and demand will reach a balance, Cook said, "The truth is we don't know. We put our best estimate into the guidance,and you can see from the guidance we're really bullish."

In a statement, Cook noted that the company posted record fourth quarter revenue in fiscal 2017.

"With fantastic new products including iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, Apple Watch Series 3, and Apple TV 4K joining our product lineup, we're looking forward to a great holiday season, and with the launch of iPhone X getting underway right now, we couldn't be more excited as we begin to deliver our vision for the future with this stunning device," the statement said.


For Q4, Apple sold 46.68 million iPhones, up 3 percent year-over-year. That brought in $28.84 billion in revenue, up 2 percent year-over-year.

Services revenue came in at $8.5 billion for the quarter, up 34 percent year-over-year. Services is Apple's second-largest operating segment after the iPhone.

Apple also posted strong iPad and Mac sales: It sold 10.3 million iPads, up 11 percent year-over-year. That brought in $4.8 billion in revenue, a 14 percent year-over-year increase.

The company sold 5.4 million Macs, a 10 percent year-over-year increase. That accounted for $7.2 billion in revenue, up 25 percent year-over-year. In fiscal 2017, Mac had its best year ever, Cook said.

International sales accounted for 62 percent of Q4 revenue, Apple noted. Revenue was up year-over-year in all regions, except Japan where it was down 11 percent.

In Greater China, revenue came to $9.8 billion -- up 12 percent year-over-year and 20 percent sequentially -- reversing years of downward trending sales in the region. Last week, the research firm Canalys reported that sales of the iPhone 8 is helping to revive business there.

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