PICTURES, VIDEO

Apple profit tops forecasts, 33.8 million iPhones sold

Boxes of the new Apple iPhone 5S are displayed at an Apple Store on Sept 20, 2013 in Palo Alto, California. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
Boxes of the new Apple iPhone 5S are displayed at an Apple Store on Sept 20, 2013 in Palo Alto, California. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
Customers buy the latest versions of the iPhone 5C and 5S at the Apple store at the Americana at Brand mall in Glendale, California, Friday, Sept 20, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
Customers buy the latest versions of the iPhone 5C and 5S at the Apple store at the Americana at Brand mall in Glendale, California, Friday, Sept 20, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
Customers wait in line to buy the latest versions of the iPhone during the opening day of sales of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5C at the Apple store at the Americana at Brand mall in Glendale, California, Friday, Sept 20, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
Customers wait in line to buy the latest versions of the iPhone during the opening day of sales of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5C at the Apple store at the Americana at Brand mall in Glendale, California, Friday, Sept 20, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
Apple Store employees stack boxes of the new Apple iPhone 5S on Sept 20, 2013 in Palo Alto, California. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
Apple Store employees stack boxes of the new Apple iPhone 5S on Sept 20, 2013 in Palo Alto, California. -- FILE PHOTO: AP
Apple chief executive Tim Cook praises the new iPhone 5S as the most refined model the company has ever introduced on Sept 10, 2013, in Cupertino, California. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
Apple chief executive Tim Cook praises the new iPhone 5S as the most refined model the company has ever introduced on Sept 10, 2013, in Cupertino, California. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
A man displays the two iPhone 5S he just purchased, in this Sept 20, 2013, file photo outside the Apple Store in Glendale, California. Apple on Monday reported a quarterly profit of US$7.5 billion (S$9.3 billion) on the back of soaring iPhone sales.
A man displays the two iPhone 5S he just purchased, in this Sept 20, 2013, file photo outside the Apple Store in Glendale, California. Apple on Monday reported a quarterly profit of US$7.5 billion (S$9.3 billion) on the back of soaring iPhone sales. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Apple on Monday reported a quarterly profit of US$7.5 billion (S$9.3 billion) on the back of soaring iPhone sales.

The US tech giant closed out its fiscal year with a net annual profit of US$37 billion, an impressive figure but the first annual decline in earnings in 11 years.

"We're pleased to report a strong finish to an amazing year with record fourth quarter revenue, including sales of almost 34 million iPhones," Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in a release.

The quarterly profit was down 8.6 per cent from a year earlier, but ahead of most analyst forecasts. It came on revenues of some US$37.5 billion in the quarter ending Sept 28, up four percent year-on-year.

California-based Apple reported selling 33.8 million iPhones in the quarter that ended Sept 28, setting a new record for sales in that quarter.

Apple said that iPad sales inched up to 14.1 million in a slight rise from the 14 million sold during the same quarter last year.

The current quarter was expected to be a more telling one for iPads, since Apple last week beefed up the line with a slim iPad Air model and an improved iPad Mini ahead of the prime holiday shopping season.

Apple last week also showed off upgrades to its notebooks and desktop computers along with free software to sweeten the deal.

The new iPads will be sold alongside existing versions starting Nov 1 in more than 40 markets around the world. For the first time, China will be among the countries getting the latest iPad models on launch day.

Apple upgrades for its MacBook line of notebooks and Mac Pro desktop computer, and its new operating system called Mavericks will be available as a free upgrade for those with existing Apple computers.

Apple reported that it sold 4.6 million Macs, compared to 4.9 million in the year-ago quarter.

"We're excited to go into the holidays with our new iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s, iOS 7, the new iPad mini with Retina Display and the incredibly thin and light iPad Air, new MacBook Pros, the radical new Mac Pro, OS X Mavericks and the next generation iWork and iLife apps for OS X and iOS," Cook said.

Apple's board of directors also declared a cash dividend of US$3.05 per share of common stock.

"We generated US$9.9 billion in cash flow from operations and returned an additional US$7.8 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the September quarter, bringing cumulative payments under our capital return program to US$36 billion," said Apple chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer.

Apple shares were down more than two per cent to US$516.34 in after-market trading that followed release of the earnings figures.

Apple said its gross profit margin was 37 per cent compared to 40 per cent in the year-ago quarter.

And it said the outlook for the current quarter was similar, with a margin expected between 36.5 per cent and 37.5 per cent.