Apple was in the unfamiliar position of receiving mostly negative speculation ahead of its March quarter earnings announcement, amid fears that the Apple brand was losing its lustre and that it was losing sales to cheaper Android alternatives, especially in developing smartphone markets.
In the end iPhone sales were in line with our expectations at 37.4 million units, while iPad sales were at the top end our expectations at 19.5 million units. Revenues were at the top end of Apple’s previous guidance at $43.6 billion, with revenues from Greater China at an all-time high, while gross margin was at the low end of guidance at 37.5%. This resulted in quarterly net profit of $9.5 billion, down from $11.6 billion in the year-ago quarter, the first year-on-year fall in quarterly profits by Apple for ten years, in spite of record March quarter revenues. Gross margin in the year-ago quarter was 47.4%, meaning margin has fallen by over 20% in the past year.
This margin decline points to a lower average selling price (ASP) for Apple devices. The ASP for the iPhone declined slightly year-on-year, with the lower-priced iPhone 4 contributing a higher proportion of the mix than has historically been the case thanks to being made more available in some developing markets. Furthermore, higher than expected sales of the iPad mini, following supply shortages in the previous quarter, will have been a major contributor to the margin decline by causing a lower iPad ASP.
In conclusion this was a solid quarter from Apple, with revenues beating expectations but profitability falling slightly short. iPhone shipments of 37.4 million units, at an ASP of $613 are in line with expectations, while the lower-priced iPad mini was probably the single most significant contributor to both the higher revenues and the lower profitability. Apple guided around $34.5 billion revenue and 36.5% gross margin for the June quarter, which will have done little to reassure investors concerned about Apple’s declining profitability.
Here I am discussing Apple earlier today as part of a Bloomberg TV roundtable: