Apple reports blockbuster quarter as iPhone sales top estimates

iPhone sales help drive strong Apple results. Stocks close mostly lower.VIDEO: REUTERS
 An iPhone is seen on display at a kiosk at an Apple reseller store in Mumbai, India, Jan 12, 2017.
An iPhone is seen on display at a kiosk at an Apple reseller store in Mumbai, India, Jan 12, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - Apple reported a bigger-than-expected rise in iPhone sales for the holiday quarter, driven by strong demand for the latest version of its flagship smartphone.

Shares of the world's most valuable listed company were up 2.6 per cent at US$124.50 in after-hours trading on Tuesday (Jan 31).

Apple sold 78.29 million iPhones in the first quarter ended Dec 31, up from 74.78 million last year, marking the first quarterly growth in iPhone sales in a year.

Analysts on average had estimated iPhone sales of 77.42 million, according to research firm FactSet StreetAccount.

The results, which reflected the first full quarter of iPhone 7 sales, come at a time when global demand for smartphones is slowing and cheaper Android alternatives are flooding the market.

Revenue in the Greater China region fell 11.6 per cent to US$16.23 billion (S$22.87 billion), highlighting Apple's struggles in a hotly contested smartphone market.

The company also forecast revenue of between US$51.5 billion and US$53.5 billion for the current quarter. Analysts, on average, had expected revenue of US$53.79 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Apple chief financial officer Luca Maestri said that a stronger dollar hurt the company's revenue forecast.

Analysts on average expect the company to sell 53.43 million iPhones in the current quarter, according to FactSet.

The company is heavily dependent on the success of iPhones, which account for 40.8 per cent of its total revenue.

Analysts and investors have already set their sights on Apple's 10th-anniversary iPhone, which is expected to feature better touchscreen technology, wireless charging and a shift to Oled display.

Apple's services business - which includes the App Store, Apple Pay and iCloud - recorded a 18.4 per cent growth in revenue to US$7.17 billion, helped by the popularity of games, including Pokemon Go and Super Mario Run, and increased revenue from subscriptions.

Cowen & Co and Mizuho Securities had expected revenue of about US$7 billion, while FactSet had forecast US$6.91 billion.

Analysts expect growing revenue from Apple's services segment to help offset declining hardware sales as the smart phone market matures.

The company's net income fell to US$17.89 billion, or US$3.36 per share, in the quarter from US$18.36 billion, or US$3.28 per share a year earlier. Analysts on average had expected US$3.12 per share.

Revenue rose 3.3 per cent to US$78.35 billion in the quarter.

Analysts had expected revenue of US$77.25 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Up to Tuesday's close, Apple's shares have gained 14.7 per cent since mid-November, compared with the 5.3 per cent rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.