iPods, notebooks help Apple double profits

Music players and portable computers boost fourth-quarter revenue to its highest level in nine years.

Apple Computer on Wednesday reported its quarterly profit had more than doubled on strong sales of its iPod digital music player and notebook computers, and said revenue and earnings for the current quarter would top Wall Street estimates.

The fiscal fourth-quarter earnings per share were 50 percent better than Wall Street had expected. Apple shares, which have rallied steadily since late last year, jumped 4 percent in after-hours trade.

Net income for the fiscal fourth quarter ended Sept. 25 rose to $106 million, or 26 cents per share, from $44 million, or 12 cents per share, a year ago.

Revenue rose 37 percent to $2.35 billion from $1.72 billion, which Apple said was its highest fourth-quarter revenue in nine years.

Excluding 1 cent per share in restructuring charges, Apple had a profit of 27 cents a share. Analysts had forecast a profit, on average, of 18 cents a share, on revenue of $2.15 billion, on the same basis.

Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said the far-better-than-expected quarter reflected robust sales of the iBook and PowerBook notebook PCs, a 95-percent rise in Apple's retail store business and strong sales to U.S. schools.

In the fourth quarter, PowerBook revenue climbed 20 percent to $419 million, while iPod revenue more than quadrupled to $537 million and accounted for 23 percent of total revenue.

Apple shipped 2.02 million of the popular digital music players, up sixfold from a year ago.

The figure included iPods manufactured by Hewlett-Packard, a new production alliance that accounted for 6 percent of the digital music players sold in the past quarter.

For the current, first quarter, Apple forecast a per-share profit of 39 cents to 42 cents on revenue of $2.8 billion to $2.89 billion.

Analysts had expected a profit of 28 cents per share, on average, within a range of 23 cents to 34 cents, on revenue of $2.52 billion.

In after-hours trade on INET, Apple shares rose 4.4 percent to $41.50. In regular trade on Nasdaq, Apple stock had increased $1.46, or 3.8 percent, to close at $39.75. The stock has gained 109 percent since late December.

Story Copyright  © 2004 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.

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