Apple Inc reported record sales in the holiday quarter, beating estimates due to high iPhone demand and growing subscribers, even as a chips shortage that it said has begun easing cost it over $6 billion in revenue.
Apple shares rose over 3% to $164.30 in after-hours trading. But they have been down 10% this year, in line with the broader market, as investors reconsider stocks that have soared during the pandemic and shift funds toward safer assets.
The record results for the quarter ended Dec. 25 reflected what analysts have described as Apple taking advantage of its incredible size. The company, which has more than 1.8 billion active devices in the market, has been able to squeeze suppliers and manufacturers to produce big quantities of iPhones and other devices despite shortages brought on by the pandemic and most recently the Omicron variant.
"They’ve navigated the supply chain better than everybody, and it’s showing in the results," said Ryan Reith, who studies the smartphone market for industry tracker IDC.
Demand during the holiday quarter outstripped supply in line with Apple’s expectations, Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri told Reuters in an interview, noting that the effect was more than $6 billion in lost sales. But he said constraints would decrease in the current quarter, ending in March.
"The level of constraint will depend a lot on other companies, what will be the demand for chips from other companies and other industries. It’s difficult for us to predict, so we try to focus on the short term," he said.
With few rival phones debuting in the holiday shopping season, the iPhone 13, which started shipping days before the quarter began, led to worldwide phone sales revenue for Apple of $71.6 billion, a 9% increase from the 2020 holiday season that handily beat Wall Street targets, according to Refinitiv data.
Apple’s smartphone market share in China reached a record 23% in the holiday quarter, when it was the top-selling vendor there for the first time in six years, research firm Counterpoint Research reported on Wednesday.
The company’s overall fiscal first-quarter revenue was $123.9 billion, 11% up from last year and higher than analysts’ average estimate of $118.7 billion. Profit was $34.6 billion, or $2.10 per share, compared with analysts’ expectations of $31 billion and $1.89 per share.
The pandemic has accelerated adoption of digital tools for communication, learning and entertainment, powering Apple to blowout sales across each of the company’s segments, including computers, accessories and tablets.
Apple’s services business, which covers paid apps such as Apple TV+, Apple Music and Apple Fitness, also has seen a big bump. Services revenue rose 24% to $19.5 billion, topping analysts’ estimates of $18.6 billion. The company has 785 million paying subscribers across its offerings, an increase from 620 million a year ago and 745 million last quarter.
Sales for iPads fell 14% to $7.25 billion compared with analyst estimates of $8.2 billion, seeming to confirm industry predictions that iPads would have low priority for any scarce parts.
Sales for Macs rose 25% to $10.9 billion compared with estimates of $9.5 billion, and sales for accessories rose 13% to $14.7 billion compared with estimates of $14.6 billion.
For investors, the growing services business is helping mitigate production challenges. Apple is trading at 27 times expected earnings over the next 12 months. While down from as much as 35 a year ago, it remains above the company’s five-year average of 20 times expected earnings, according to Refinitiv.
Apple is facing antitrust pressure in the United States and Europe that could lead to new regulations that cut into its services revenue.
Late last month, the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) ordered Apple to make changes for apps on offer in the Apple App Store in the Netherlands by Jan. 15 or face fines, after it found that the U.S. company had abused its market dominance by requiring dating app developers to exclusively use Apple’s in-app payment system.
Supply chain issues are dragging on and concern remains about how long it will take Apple to deliver its next big product, such as an augmented reality headset or an electric vehicle.
Apple had reported strong customer response to its latest release, the AirTag, when the accessory began shipping in the fiscal third quarter of 2021.
Apple posted a rare revenue miss in the fiscal quarter ended Sept. 25, which CEO Tim Cook attributed to pandemic-related supply constraints and manufacturing disruptions that together cost the company an estimated $6 billion in sales.
But smaller rivals are struggling to keep up with production, leading to Apple market share gains in regions such as China, said Angelo Zino of CFRA Research in a research note."Since Apple has many customized components going into the iPhones, Macs, Apple Watch and others and the scale (volume and price) at which it procures, Apple has been able to lock-in suppliers capacities to timely produce those parts with lesser delays," said Neil Shah of Counterpoint Research.