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Apple Did Fine, But Wall Street Couldn't Cut It

"Expectations" Can Cost Billions of Dollars

Maybe while Occupy Wall Street is busy tidying up the world it might want to take on the silliness of "expectations," those hurdles companies are supposed to leap over because Wall Street guesstimates they should.

"Expectations" constantly cost billions of dollars. They cost Apple billions Tuesday when it missed "expectations" and didn't sell the requisite number of iPhones Wall Street thought it should although Wall Street knew as well as all the iPhone buyers out there that Apple was supposed to put out a new iPhone.

The miss, as they say, cost Apple $28 a share adding to doubts about the shift in Apple management since Steve Jobs died two weeks ago even though Apple's earnings and revenues were up "sharply," as they also say.

Apple earned $7.05 a share in its fiscal fourth quarter, up 54% from $4.64 per share a year a year ago when the company reported net income of $6.62 billion as opposed to $4.31 billion. Revenue jumped 39% to $28.3 billion.

It was supposed to earn $7.26 a share on revenue on $29.69 billion, making it the company's first "miss" since 2004.

Apple only sold 17.07 million iPhones during the quarter, up 21% year-over-year, but down 16% sequentially and Wall Street figures it should have sold 18 million-20 million since it sold 20.3 million in its third quarter.

Apple said it exceeded internal projections but sales were impacted by rumors of the coming of the new iPhone 4S leading to delayed purchases.

The new iPhone did of course wrack up sales of four million in its first three days this passed weekend but that's a fiscal Q1 record.

The facts suggest a displacement Wall Street should have anticipated into its models.

Meanwhile, Q4 iPad sales more than doubled to 11.12 million, roughly in line with most "expectations," Mac sales jumped 26% to 4.89 million - while the overall PC business grew under 4% - and iPod sales fell 27% to 6.62 million. Apple's gross margin of 40.3% was better than the 39.74% expected.

Apple is now getting 63% of its revenue from overseas.

Its new masters expect earnings of $9.30 a share for its first quarter against analyst expectations of $9.01 a share on $37 billion in revenue. Everybody says that's anywhere near as conservative as Apple is known to be and a staid new CEO Tim Cook even predicted that Apple, with its "unbelievable" pipeline, will set "an all-time record" for iPhone sales this quarter. He could not predict when supply might meet demand. Apple has also cut prices on older models to attract the price-conscious.

The company now has an amazing $81.6 billion in the bank. It may be time to reinterpret what exactly a growth stock is.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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