Apple's growth sags in latest quarter as gadgets go for less

A customer uses an iPhone 4S at an Apple store in Palo Alto, Calif. A new iPhone is expected to arrive in October.

NEW YORK — More consumers are buying the least expensive versions of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, a new phenomenon that is causing the company’s breakneck growth rate to slow.


On Tuesday, Apple Inc. revealed that both revenue and net income posted increases of just over 20 percent – cause for celebration at most companies, but meager by Apple standards.

Apple’s growth was the slowest in more than two years, and failed to meet analyst expectations.

“The sheen is off the apple: It was a miss, no question about it,” said David Rolfe, the chief investment officer at Wedgewood Partners Inc.

Apple routinely blows past analyst expectations. It has only come in under their earnings expectations twice in ten years.

“We became too confident, in our expectations, that Apple had literally a perfect pulse on end demand throughout the globe … and quite simply, that wasn’t the case this quarter,” Rolfe said.

It wasn’t so much the volume of sales that disappointed: Apple sold 17 million iPads in April to June period, beating expectations, and 26 million iPhones, at the low end of expectations.

But Apple’s average selling prices for the gadgets declined to levels last seen in 2010 for the iPhone and the lowest levels ever in the case of the iPad.

Part of the reason was that consumers bought less expensive versions of the devices, said Apple’s chief financial officer, Peter Oppenheimer. Apple introduced a new iPad in March, but kept the older model in stores while cutting its price.

The strengthening dollar also meant that overseas sales at constant prices translated into fewer dollars for Apple.

Sales in China, which have been a growth engine for the company, also declined compared to the previous quarter. CEO Tim Cook said that was because the iPhone 4S went on sale in China during the quarter that ended in March, and the company stocked inventories in the country.

Cook said he didn’t see any effect of the economic slowdown in China. The troubles in Europe were evident, however. Sales to the continent grew just 16 percent.

Cook also blamed the tepid iPhone sales – up 28 percent from a year ago, but down from the previous quarter – on anticipation building for the next iPhone model. Apple hasn’t said when it’s arriving, but most company watchers now expect it in October.

Rolfe had expected stronger iPhone sales, and said he’s surprised that consumers are holding off on buying iPhones as much as six months before the arrival of a new model. Previously, iPhone sales started tapering off about three months before the arrival of a new model.

Net income in Apple’s fiscal third quarter was $8.8 billion, or $9.32 per share. That was up 21 percent from $7.3 billion, or $7.79 per share, a year ago.

Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting earnings of $10.37 per share.

Revenue at the Cupertino, Calif., company was $35 billion, up 23 percent. Analysts were expecting $37.5 billion.

Investors sold off Apple shares, but the reaction was muted compared to the earnings miss. Apple shares fell $31.92, or 5.3 percent, to $569 in after-hours trading, after the release of the results.

With its market value of $539 billion, Apple is by far the world’s largest company.

Apple forecast earnings of $7.65 per share for the current quarter, well below the average analyst forecast at $10.26. Normally, Apple’s forecasts are ignored, because the company routinely exceeds them. But for the just-ended quarter, Apple’s cautious forecasts were more accurate than those of analysts.

Apple’s forecast points to year-over-year profit growth of just 9 percent.

For revenue, Apple forecast $34 billion, while analysts have been expecting $38.1 billion.

Apple last missed expectations when it reported results for the quarter that ended in September last year. That was because of the iPhone 4S’s launch being pushed from that quarter to the next one, and it made up the shortfall with very strong sales in the holiday quarter.


NEW YORK — Apple Inc. will release its new operating system for Mac computers today, with features borrowed from mobile devices and a tighter integration with online file storage.

Dubbed Mountain Lion, the new software narrows the gap between the PC and phone software packages, making Mac personal computers work more like iPhones and iPads.

It’s similar to what Microsoft Corp. is doing with its forthcoming Windows 8 system. That system, to be released Oct. 26, will bring the look and user interface of Windows Phone to PCs.

Mountain Lion will cost $20 and will be sold only as a download. Only computers running the two most recent versions of Mac OS, Lion and Snow Leopard, can be upgraded.

Macs bought on or after June 11 can be upgraded for free.

– Associated Press