Apple doubles iPhone sales in holiday quarter, sailing past analyst estimates

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NEW YORK — After uncharacteristically tepid sales in the third quarter, Apple came back with a vengeance in the last three months of 2011, vastly exceeding analyst estimates and setting new records.

Apple Inc. on Tuesday said it sold 37 million iPhones in the quarter, double the figure of the previous quarter and more than twice as many as it sold in the holiday quarter of 2010.

The result could make Apple the world’s largest maker of smartphones. Sam­sung Electronics, which held that position for most of last year, has said it expects to report shipping about 35 million smartphones in the quarter.

October saw the launch of the iPhone 4S and the addition of Sprint Nextel Corp. as an iPhone carrier in the U.S.

Apple said net income in the fiscal first quarter was $13.06 billion, or $13.87 per share. That was up 118 percent from $6 billion, or $6.43 per share, a year ago.

Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting earnings of $10.04 per share for the latest quarter, Apple’s fiscal first.

Revenue was $46.33 billion, up 73 percent from a year ago. Analysts were expecting $38.9 billion.

The Cupertino, Calif., company shipped 15.4 million iPads in the quarter, again more than doubling sales over the same quarter last year. The November launch of Amazon.com Inc.’s $199 Kindle Fire tablet didn’t appear to put a dent in the iPad’s sales, as some analysts predicted it would.

In other earnings reports:

Kimberly-Clark Corp.: The maker of Kleenex tissues and Huggies diapers posted a smaller-than-expected rise in adjusted quarterly profit as cost cuts and a lower share count were not enough to overcome soft demand in businesses such as North American diapers and some higher costs. The company expects economic conditions to “remain difficult in the near term, particularly in developed markets,” Chairman and CEO Thomas Falk said. The company earned $401 million, or $1.01 per share, in the fourth quarter, down from $492 million, or $1.20 per share, a year earlier.

Synovus Financial Corp.: The operators of Augusta First Bank & Trust posted a fourth-quarter profit, benefiting from a drop in provisions for bad loans. The company earned $12.8 million, or a cent per share, compared with a net loss of $180 million, or a loss of 23 cents per share, a year ago. Provisions for loan losses fell 79 percent to $54.5 million, while net charge-offs dipped 71 percent to $113.5 million, compared to the year-ago period.

Verizon: Verizon paid dearly to put iPhones in the hands of subscribers in the fourth quarter. It said said Tuesday that it sold 4.3 million of the iPhone 4S, and 7.7 million smartphones total. But by the upside-down logic of the wireless industry, higher sales mean lower profits. Verizon Wireless subsidizes each smartphone by hundreds of dollars.

Johnson and Johnson: A slew of charges for recalls, product liability, litigation and an acquisition dragged fourth-quarter profits down to barely a tenth of what the health care giant made a year ago. Net income was $218 million, or 8 cents per share, down from $1.94 billion, or 70 cents a share, a year earlier.

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