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Apple Q4 figures down but in line with forecasts

Warns of further decline next quarter

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Apple's financial forecasts proved correct last night when the company posted its Q4 2001 results: a profit of $66 million (19 cents a share) on sales of $1.45 billion. But it warned that the situation is set to worsen next quarter.

Both figures show sharp declines on the figures Apple announced this time last year, when in made $170 million (for a year-on-year fall of 61.2 per cent) on sales of $1.86 billion (down 22 per cent year on year).

This despite the fact that the company's gross margin was 31 per cent, up from 25 per cent a year ago.

For the year as a whole, Apple lost $25 million despite making sales worth $5.36 billion, the profits made in the last two or three quarters being wiped out by the inventory hits the company took in its first quarter thanks to declining education sales and the Cube debacle.

The Cube is now consigned to history, of course, and Apple does appear to have regained the ground it lost in the education market. The company is now the leader in the field, according to stats from market watcher Quality Education Data, and Apple last night noted that its iBook sales to schools and colleges increased threefold through Q4.

They will need to continue to do so, since the company's retail experience isn't likely to be a good one. Apple's store roll-out programme is progressing nicely - 11 have been opened so far - but consumer confidence has been dealt a harsh blow by the events of 11 September. Apple CFO Fred Anderson admitted that the fledgling chain will now make a loss for calendar 2001, rather than break even as the company had previously forecast.

Anderson also warned that Q1 2002 will see reduced sales - down to around $1.4 billion - and much reduced profitability: "at least ten cents a share", he said. Just how good or bad the quarter will be will depend on how much spending picks up in the run up to Christmas. In the US, pre-Christmas spending doesn't usually begin until the post-Thanksgiving (22 November) weekend.

Still, the company's balanced sheet remains "strong", Anderson added, "with over $4.3 billion in cash" - plenty to keep it going through difficult times, provided they're short. Apple still has rather a lot of ARM shares to sell off - this quarter it sold $1 million worth, bumping its profit up from $65 million to the headline figure.

During the current quarter, Apple shipped 850,000 Macs, 41 per cent of them outside North America. It shipped 251,000 iBooks (up from 89,000 this time last year), 294,000 iMacs (down from 576,000 this time last year), 248,000 Power Mac G4s (down from 376,000 in Q4 2000, but up from last quarter's 225,000) and 57,000 PowerBooks (down on last quarter's 106,00 and last year's 88,000). ®

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