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Apple Disappoints; Punters Flee Stock; Google Smirks

Earnings were flat at a record $13.1 billion or $13.81 a share

As soon as Apple’s fiscal first-quarter numbers hit Wall Street Wednesday, its stock dropped.

Thirty minutes into the after-hours conference call it was down 8% to under $475 after losing 30% of its value since it hit a $705 all-time high in September and was roundly cheered as the most valuable company on earth.

Fifteen minutes later it was down 10% to $462 and change. By the end of the call it was grazing the other side of $460, down 11%.

It’s not that the numbers stink. It’s that they don’t match expectations. As far as Apple’s concern it was an “extraordinary quarter.”

Revenues were up 18% year-over-year to $54.4 billion, roughly what was expected, but earnings were flat at a record $13.1 billion or $13.81 a share.

Total iPhone shipments were a record 47.8 million widgets; analysts wanted 50 million; Apple said iPhone 5 and 4 were constrained.

It sold 22.9 iPads and iPad minis, a little shy of the 23 million expected. Apple said the mini was also supply-constrained.

By comparison Apple sold 26.9 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, up 58% year-over year. It also sold 14 million iPads in Q4.

Mac sales were way down in Q1 at 4.1 million units because of supply constraints that delayed the new iMacs until December, a situation that was aggravated by the fact that the quarter was only 13 weeks long, not 14 weeks like last year.

Apple said, “We know the sales would have been materially higher if those constraints wouldn’t exist.” CEO Tim Cook added, “On iMac, the demand here is very strong and we are not certain we’ll achieve a supply/demand balance.”

iTunes generated $2.1 billion in revenue. iCloud continues to grow, with 250 million accounts. More than two billion iMessages are sent every day.

Gross margin was 38.6%, better than the 36% Apple had forecast and roughly what Wall Street expected. This time a year ago it was a plump 44.7%.

Apple now has $137.1 billion in the bank and no clear plans for it other than buying back some stock.

Guidance, which CFO Peter Oppenheimer suggested might be a tad more precise than Apple’s usually conservative forecasts, calls for Q2 revenues in the range of $41 billion-$43 billion, up only 7% year-over-year and below the consensus of $45.9 billion, not the double-digit growth the market has come to expect. Apple did not provide an EPS estimate. Gross margin is supposed to be 37.5%-38%.

When questioned Oppenheimer explained that “In the past we provided a single-point estimate of guidance that was conservative, that we had reasonable confidence in achieving. This quarter going forward, we are going to report a range of guidance that we will report within.”

Cook also warned against believing rumors of Apple cancelling orders for parts. There are lots of those rumors floating around.

Oppenheimer said Apple plans to spend $10 billion this year on capex up from $2 billion. The company means to add to its infrastructure and data centers, buy equipment earmarked for partner facilities and earmark a billion dollars for its stores.

Sales in Greater China, Apple’s primary focus, were worth $7.3 billion in the quarter, up over 60% year-on-year. iPhone sales grew into the triple digits. Cook said. Apple shipped iPads there late in the quarter.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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