Apple (AAPL): Market Gods Angered By Guidance

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The market did not expect much from Apple’s (AAPL) earnings. The shares closed the regular session off 7% to $91.49. It got even worse. After hours, the stock was off again  by as much as 3% on weak guidance.

For the Q4, the Street expected $1.11 per share in earnings on sales of $8.05 billion. For the fiscal first quarter ending December, analysts looked for Apple to forecast $1.65 on sales of $10.57 billion. For all of fiscal 2009 ending next September, the average estimate was for $5.73 on sales of $38.79 billion, according to Barron’s

As it turns out, Apple posted revenue of $7.9 billion and net quarterly profit of $1.14 billion, or $1.26 per diluted share. This compares with revenue of $6.22 billion and net quarterly profit of $904 million, or $1.01 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter.

Apple shipped 2,611,000 Macintosh computers during the quarter, representing 21% unit growth and 17% growth over the year-ago quarter. It sold 11,052,000 iPods during the quarter, representing 8% growth and 8% revenue growth over the year-ago quarter. Quarterly iPhone units sold were 6,892,000 compared to 1,119,000 in the year-ago-quarter.

In other words, operating margins were squeezed.

For the last quarter of the year, Apple said it did not have a precise idea of how things looked. It provided a wide range of guidance, targeting revenue of $9.0 to $10.0 billion and earnings per share between $1.06 and $1.35. Those forecasts were extremely light.

Douglas A. McIntyre