Disappointing sales numbers for Apple

Computer maker squeaks by analysts' estimates in its third quarter, earning $200m, or 55 cents a share, on sales of $1.825bn
Written by Larry Barrett, Contributor

Apple Computer topped analysts' estimates in its third quarter Tuesday, earning $200m (about £124m), or 55 cents a share, on sales of $1.83bn.

First Call consensus expected the PC maker to earn 44 cents a share in the quarter.

However, the third-quarter results included a $37m gain related to the sale of 4.95 million shares of ARM Holdings. Excluding those gains, Apple earned $163m, or 45 cents a share, in the quarter. Ahead of the earnings report, Apple shares closed off 1 1/16 to 57 1/4 but fell to 53 1/2 in after-hours trading.

The $1.83bn in sales marks a 17 percent improvement from the year-ago quarter when it raked in $203m, or 60 cents a share, on sales of $1.56bn.

Also, the $1.825bn in sales fell slightly below most analysts' estimates. Various reports expected the computer maker to report sales ranging between $1.9bn and $1.95bn.

In the quarter, Apple sold more than one million units -- including 450,000 iMac systems and 350,000 PowerMac G4 systems. Total unit sales improved 12 percent from the year-ago quarter.

"We're pleased to report our eleventh consecutive profitable quarter, with net profits up 43 percent," said CEO Steve Jobs in a prepared release. "We've now shipped 3.7 million iMacs since introduction, and we had a strong quarter for our pro products, especially PowerBooks."

Last quarter, Apple shattered analysts' estimates, earning $160m, or 88 cents a share, on sales of $1.94bn. Its shares moved up to a 52-week high of 75 3/16 in March after falling to a low of 25 7/16 last July.

Seventeen of the 20 analysts following the stock maintain either a "buy" or "strong buy" recommendation. First Call consensus expects the company to earn $1.83 a share in the fiscal year.

In a separate release, Apple announced an alliance with Circuit City Stores to offer Apple products in its 570 retail outlets. The store will display Apple's hardware and showcase Apple's desktop video software.

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