Apple shares fall as outlook well below Street view

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Apple Inc said on Monday its current-quarter earnings would be well below Wall Street targets, sending shares in the maker of Macintosh computers and iPod music players down nearly 9 percent.

A man holds his new Apple 3G iPhone at Telcel Center in Mexico City July 11, 2008. REUTERS/Daniel Aguilar

While Apple has a reputation for giving conservative financial forecasts, its view for the fiscal fourth quarter undercut analyst expectations to a deeper degree than in past quarters, prompting investors to seek more details.

But after reporting better-than-expected third-quarter results, Apple executives said they saw no effect from a weak U.S. economy and expected stronger Mac sales this quarter.

“It’s a reaction to Apple’s typical conservative guidance,” Chris Whitmore of Deutsche Bank said of the share price drop. “Investors are likely to focus on the rationale for the conservative guidance.”

Apple forecast fourth-quarter earnings of $1.00 per share and revenue of $7.8 billion, compared with average Wall Street targets of $1.25 per share -- out of a range of $1.13 to $1.41 -- on $8.3 billion in revenue, according to Reuters Estimates.

By comparison, in April, the company’s forecast for third-quarter earnings per share was 11 cents behind Wall Street views at the time.

Then on Monday, third-quarter net income came in 11 cents ahead of the average estimate at $1.07 billion, or $1.19 per share, up from $818.0 million, or 92 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue advanced to $7.46 billion from $5.41 billion.

Analysts, on average, had expected a profit of $1.08 per share on revenue of $7.37 billion.

“Given the results that we just posted, it’s hard to see any obvious impact of the economy,” Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer told Reuters. “We expect to sell more Macs in the September quarter than we did in June.”

Addressing investor concerns that Chief Executive Steve Jobs’s health may have suffered in recent months, Oppenheimer said on a conference call that Jobs has no plans to leave Apple. He said Jobs’s health was a private matter.


Apple shipped nearly 2.5 million Macs in its third quarter, up 41 percent from a year ago and in line with analysts’ expectations. It sold more than 11 million iPods, up 12 percent from a year ago and ahead of forecasts of up to 10.5 million.

Sales of its iPhone mobile handsets were slightly above forecasts. Apple sold 717,000 in the quarter, more than double the amount sold a year ago when the device was first launched.

Third-quarter gross margin was 34.8 percent, also ahead of forecasts of as much as 33.6 percent. Apple forecast a fourth-quarter gross margin of 31.5 percent, and about 30 percent for 2009.

Apple this month rolled out a new iPhone, which connects to the Internet at faster speeds than its previous version, in more than 20 countries. It plans to launch the new device in 20 more countries on August 22, company executives said.

Jobs said in a statement the company believed its new iPhone was “a real winner” and that it was working on several other new products to launch in the coming months.

Shares of Apple have declined 16 percent this year, based on Monday’s close, compared with a decline of 14 percent in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. The stock fell to $151.50 in extended trade from its close of $166.29 on Monday.

Additional reporting by Michele Gershberg in New York; Editing by Braden Reddall