Apple Inc. (AAPL) - Get Report shares opened at a five week high Wednesday after the world's most valuable tech company posted stronger-than-expected quarterly earnings and hinted that cooling U.S.-China trade tensions would support international sales growth over the near term.
After cautioning investors earlier this month that sales over the three months ending in December, the company's fiscal first quarter, would slow to around $84 billion thanks in part to tepid China growth, Apple posted modestly stronger earnings and revenue for the period, including a robust margin for its fast-growing services division, and said current-quarter sales would likely match the Street consensus of around $59 billion.
Apple CEO Tim Cook also devoted a good portion of his conference call with investors to market developments in China, where Apple earns around a fifth of its revenues but saw sales there fall $4.8 billion from last year,
"We noted four factors that would impact our results when we provided guidance in November: different iPhone launch timing from a year ago, FX headwinds, supply constraints on certain products and macroeconomic conditions in emerging markets," CEO Tim Cook told investors on a conference call late Tuesday. "One of those factors, weak macro conditions in some emerging markets was significantly more severe than we originally foresaw, especially in Greater China."
In the letter we shared earlier this month, we said we are proud to participate in the Chinese marketplace and that we believe our business has a bright future there over time," Cook added. "More than two-thirds of all customers in China who bought a Mac or an iPad during the December quarter were purchasing that product for the first time."
"Finally, for perspective, despite the challenging December quarter, our revenue from China grew slightly for the full calendar year," Cook said. "Macroeconomic factors will come and go, but we see great upside in continuing to focus on the things that we can control."
Apple shares rose 6.83% Wednesday and were changing hands at $165.25, the highest since Dec. 18 and a move that takes the stock more than 14% higher from its Jan. 2 close, when Apple first revealed its quarterly downgrade.
In fact, with this morning's pre-market gains, Apple has added around $100 million to its market value since hitting a January 3 low of $674.75 billion.
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Apple also noted that its so-called installed base, a measure of the total amount of macs, iPads, iPhone and watches in use around the world, rose 8% from last year to 1.4 billion.
That figure that could allow the company to extract even more revenues from its fast-expanding services business, which includes Apple Pay, Apple Music -- which has over 50 million paid subscribers -- cloud storage and the App Store and generated a record $10.8 billion in the three months ending in December and $41 billion for the calendar year of 2018.
"This quarter for the first time, we're making an important new disclosure to our investors as we believe it will foster a better understanding of our business," said CFO Luca Maestri. "We are now reporting on a quarterly basis, gross margin for products in aggregate and for Services in aggregate. Products gross margin was 34.3% and Services gross margin was 62.8%."
Apple reported first quarter earnings per share of $4.18, one penny ahead of the downgraded consensus forecast of $4.17, with revenues pegged at $84.3 billion, around $7 billion below its November forecast, largely due to slowing China sales.
iPhone revenue declined 15% from the previous year, while revenue from all other products and services grew 19%. Services revenue, an important focus of Apple's as iPhone growth slows, grew 19% to an all-time high of $10.9 billion.