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Apple is practically printing money, blowing away analysts estimates quarter after quarter, and sustaining terrific growth. Sales of Macs and iPods shot up in the company's fiscal Q4, which ended September 26.  (Source: Apple Gazette)
Even analyst's raised predictions fell dramatically short

Apple is a company that continues to defy expectations.  Reporting its fiscal Q4 earnings late this afternoon, Apple continued to restore its reputation as one of Silicon Valley's hottest companies and help put a sales slump from earlier this year behind it for good.  The results for the quarter, which ended September 26, took even Apple's most optimistic supporters by surprise.

Analysts had raised their estimates in September, afraid of embarrassment from past underestimations.  Unfortunately for them, the Apple surprise was even bigger this time, and they still fell short.  Analysts had forecast $1.42 earnings per share in profit -- Apple delivered $1.82 earnings per share.  Revenue was $9.87B USD, much more than the predicted $9.2B USD.

Fueled by the 3GS refresh, over 7.4 million iPhones were sold over the quarter, nearly matching the raised estimates of analysts, some of whom were predicted about 7.5 million sales.  Fears that Apple's sales weren't on pace proved unfounded.  The sales marked an increase over analyst average estimates of 7 million phones, and a substantial increase over last year's sales of 6.9 million units.

The best news for Apple, though, was its Mac sales.  Boosted by Snow Leopard and Back-to-School specials, Apple sold 3 million Macs, much more than the analyst forecast of 2.8 million units.  This was particularly significant as Macs comprise the largest single source of Apple's income.

As predicted, iPod shipments declined 8 percent to 10.2 million units.  Still, this was slightly cheerier than the 10 million units that was the average forecast.  And the financials look rock solid.  Gross margins as a percentage of revenue are up to 36.6 percent, compared 34.7 percent in fiscal Q4 of last year.

Despite being embarrassed again, analysts lavished praise on the bullish Apple.  States Shaw Wu, who covers Apple for Kaufman Bros, "It was a strong, strong quarter.  [The] big upside was driven by Macs and iPhones. This was amazing despite very high expectations, and we're still in the middle of a recession."

Stocks roared upwards in after hours trading, gaining more than 6 percent and cracking $201/share, to tie the company's highest historic share price (Note: These were after-hours trades, the market may yet settle to a slightly lower mark).

Apple CEO Steve Jobs cheered the results and titillated Apple fans, stating that the company has "some really great new products in the pipeline for 2010".  He's likely referring to Apple's upcoming tablet PC, which is rumored to finally hit in 2010.




"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer



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