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Apple's Q4 'most profitable quarter ever'

Rides iPhone, MacBook sales surge

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Apple has once again run the recession's undershorts up the flagpole during its fiscal fourth quarter 2009.

Record sales of iPhones and Macs helped Cupertino's profits soar 46 per cent in the quarter compared to the same period a year ago. Revenue also increased 25 per cent in the quarter over last year. Apple describes the results as its "most profitable quarter ever".

During fiscal Q4, which ended September 26, Apple recorded net income of $1.67bn on sales of $9.87bn. For the same quarter a year earlier, the company had earned $1.14bn on $7.9bn in sales.

"We are thrilled to have sold more Macs and iPhones than in any previous quarter," said Apple boss Steve Jobs in a statement. "We've got a very strong lineup for the holiday season and some really great new products in the pipeline for 2010."

Apple said it sold 3.5 million Macs during the quarter, a 17 per cent unit increase year-over-year and beating the previous record of 2.61 million sold during Q4 '08. About 2.3 million of the sales were laptops, which accounted for 75 per cent of Macs sold during the three months.

The company cited a particularly strong back-to-school purchasing cycle for the PC market growth (as also observed by other tech vendors like Intel and AMD). It also noted Mac sales increased 42 per cent year-over-year in its Asia Pacific market.

Sales of the iPhone rose seven per cent year-over-year to about 7.4 million units. That compares to the 6.9 million iPhones sold in the same quarter last year - when Apple first began selling the iPhone 3G.

Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook said during the company's Monday earnings conference call that he expects iPhone momentum to continue with plans to begin selling the iPhone in China later this month.

The iPod, however, didn't fare so well in sales, with an eight per cent slide in units year-over-year down to 10.2 million. This marks the second consecutive quarter sales the music player has dropped from the year-ago quarter.

Meanwhile, Apple retail stores continue to pop up everywhere. The company added 15 brick-and-mortar joints during the fourth quarter, totaling 273 outlets at the quarter's end, the company said.

Although Apple said it received 45.9 million visitors to its stores compared to 42.7 million during the same period a year ago, average store revenue dropped to $7.1 million from $7.6 million.

Chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said Apple will open two retail outlets in France in November (including one in the Louvre) and two more in New York.

As for the "very strong lineup" for the holiday season that Jobs alludes to: Cook hinted during a question and answer session that he expect Apple's air freight expenses to be higher than usual for the holidays - which is not related to the iPhone. That's a pretty good indication a MacBook and iMac refresh is due out very soon. ®

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