Apple's profit rocket hits air pocket
Apple's enviable profit growth also hit a wall in the October to December quarter. It said net income in the fiscal first quarter was $13.1 billion, or $13.81 per share, flat with a year ago. That still beat expectations, as analysts polled by FactSet had forecast earnings of $13.48 per share.
Revenue was $54.5 billion, up 18 percent from a year ago. Analysts were expecting $55 billion. Sales were held back by the fact that the latest quarter had 13 weeks, one less than the corresponding 2011 quarter.
Apple shipped 47.8 million iPhones in the quarter, about 1 million less than analysts were expecting, and 22.9 million iPads, also about 1 million short.
Most surprisingly, Mac sales were also 1 million short, at 4.1 million. That's a 22 percent drop from shipments a year ago. Oppenheimer said this was because Apple couldn't get the new iMac desktops out before December.
Cook said iPhone supplies were short too, and the company could have sold more of both the iPhone 5 and older iPhone 4 if it had been able to make more.
Most technology companies would be ecstatic if they posted 18 percent sales growth and $13 billion in profit for a single quarter, but Apple is held to a high standard, set by the shocking, iPhone-propelled success of the last few years.
"Apple has been growing tremendously and that level of growth can't be sustained by any company," said Sarah Rotman Epps, senior analyst at Forrester Research.
Investors have already been concerned that Apple's strategy of keeping the price of the iPhone high means it's losing out on sales, particularly overseas. Consumers are instead opting to buy cheaper smartphones running Google Inc.'s Android software, which has propelled South Korea's Samsung Electronics to the world's largest maker of smartphones. The average wholesale price of the iPhone is $640, hundreds of dollars more than smartphones with comparable hardware.
There's speculation among company watchers that the company will produce a cheaper iPhone, but that would cut into its profit margin and could tarnish the company's image as a purveyor of premium products.
Apple had warned that the holiday quarter's profits would be lower than Wall Street was initially expecting, because it had so many new products coming out, including the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini. New production lines are more expensive to run and yield more defective products that need to be redone or thrown out rather than sold.
AP Technology Writer Barbara Ortutay contributed to this report.
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