Apple shares tumble despite record sales

The firm sold a record 51 million iphones and 26 million iPads but profits from October to January - usually a bumper period - remained flat

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Apple said on Monday it sold a record 51 million iPhones in the holiday shopping quarter to December 28, but that was below analysts’ higher sales expectations of 55 million.

Apple also forecast revenue for its current quarter of between $42 billion and $44 billion (£25-6 billion), below many analysts’ estimates of $46.1 billion (£27 billion).

The company’s stock was hammered in after hours trading on Monday, falling at least 7.5 per cent.

The results will heap more pressure on CEO Tim Cook to take Apple into new, innovative and more profitable product lines amid increasingly stiff competition.

"The report for the December quarter was fine, but the real problem is the forecast for the March quarter," Brian Colello, analyst at Morningstar, told Reuters. "The revenue certainly appears to be a shortfall."

Quarterly revenue was a record $57.6 billion (£34.8 billion) and net profit was $13.1 billion (£7.9 billion), or $14.50 (£8.75) per diluted share, compared to revenue of $54.5 billion and net profit of $13.1 billion, or $13.81 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter.

Gross margin fell to 37.9 per cent from 38.6 per cent in the year-ago quarter.

Apple sold a record 26 million iPads during the quarter, up from 22.9 million in the year-ago period, and sold 4.8 million Macs, compared to 4.1 million last year.

“We are really happy with our record iPhone and iPad sales, the strong performance of our Mac products and the continued growth of iTunes, software and services,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

Apple, which is under pressure to return more of its roughly $159 billion (£96 billion) cash hoard to shareholders, also declared a cash dividend of $3.05 (£1.84) a share.

Activist shareholder investor Carl Icahn last week increased his stake in the company to about $3.6 billion (£2.2 billion) and has been urging Apple to increase its stock buyback program.

Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer, said on Monday: “We generated $22.7 billion in cash flow from operations and returned an additional $7.7 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the December quarter, bringing cumulative payments under our capital return program to over $43 billion.”