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Computer maker Apple saw shares slide in after-hours trading after the firm reported a 48 percent fall in earnings and offered a cautious outlook.

The California-based firm, which has a reputation for building stylish electronic devices and computers, said that profits for its third quarter came to USD32 million, or USD0.09 per share, 48 percent lower than last year.

In the previous quarter the company reported earnings of USD40 million, or USD0.11 per share. Revenues in Q3 2002 were USD1.43 billion, down 3 percent from the same quarter last year, and gross margins were 27.4 percent, down from 29.4 percent in the same period in 2001.

These figures were in line with reduced expectations the company provided in a profits warning earlier this year.

Although Apple did not provide specific forecasts for the current quarter, the company warned that its results would probably be worse than analysts expected.

"We expect September quarter revenues to be approximately flat with the June quarter and expect a slight profit for the quarter before any non-recurring items," Fred Anderson, Apple's CFO, said in a statement.

The consensus forecast by analysts, according to Thomson Financial/First Call, was for earnings of USD0.14 per share in the third quarter.

On the back of the news, shares in Apple dropped to USD16.39 after hours on Instinet from a close of USD17.86 on the Nasdaq, after losing 2 percent during the day.

Meanwhile, Apple chief executive officer Steve Jobs was upbeat about the figures, stating that Apple continued to be profitable and continued to produce innovative products.

A portion of the company's lower revenues and earnings can also be blamed, in part, on international sales, which accounted for 42 percent of the quarter's sales.

When Apple revised its estimates for Q3 in June, the company cited poor sales in Europe as a reason. At the time it also said its traditional corporate strongholds like the advertising and publishing industries were exceptionally weak.

In its most recent figures, the employer of over 1,000 in Ireland said it shipped 808,000 Macintosh units during the quarter, down 2 percent from the same quarter last year. © ENN

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