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Apple Ducks Q1 Guidance As Late iPhone 12 Launch Hits Sales, Pandemic Creates Consumer Uncertainty

Apple said the late launch of its new iPhone 12 hit revenues for its top-selling product, and declined to give current quarter guidance amid the worsening global coronavirus pandemic.

Apple Inc.  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report shares slumped lower Friday after the tech giant declined to provide current quarter guidance amid the global coronavirus pandemic, clouding better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings.

Apple said earnings for the three months ending in September, the tech giant's fiscal fourth quarter, were pegged at 73 cents per share, down 4% from the same period last year but 3 cents ahead of the Street consensus forecast. 

Group revenues, Apple said, rose 1.03% from last year to $64.7 billion, a figure that topped analysts' estimates of a $63.7 billion tally. 

However, Apple said iPhone revenues came in at $26.44 billion, down more than 20.7% from last year and just off the Street forecast of $26.5 billion thanks in part to the late launch of the iPhone 12. China revenues were also disappointing, falling 28.6% to $7.95 billion.

"Last quarter, what we saw was our non-iPhone business was up strong double digit for the full quarter. And then, if you look at iPhone and you look at it in two parts: one, pre-mid-September, which is pre the point at which the previous year we would have launched iPhones, that that period of time, which was the bulk of the quarter, iPhone was growing from a customer demand point of view," CEO Tim Cook told investors on a conference call late Thursday.

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"And of course, the -- not shipping new iPhones for the last two weeks of September makes that number in the aggregate a negative," he added. "But the net is the underlying business in China last quarter was very strong and perhaps very different than you might think from just a quick look at the stated number."

Apple shares were marked 5.3% lower in late morning trading Friday to change hands at $109.20 each. Apple shares are down around 15% since its four-for-one split on August 31.

Apple said services revenue rose 16.3% to $14.55 billion, and will likely see double-digit growth in the current quarter. Revenue for its wearables, home and accessories division was up 20.85% to $7.88 billion.

Mac revenues were pegged at $9.03 billion, up 29.2% from last year, while iPad revenues surged 45.9% to $6.8 billion thanks in part to students buying devices for at-home learning. 

"Apple reported a record September quarter despite delayed flagship product announcement, exceeding revenue/EPS Street expectations by +1.7%/+2.8%," said Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz. "The company also reported record fiscal year performance for revenue/EPS/FCF."

"Revenue was driven primarily by stronger than expected iPhone and Services performances, and Mac sales and aggregate installed base of active devices reached all time high," he added. "Despite uncertainties surrounding the current environment, we believe that Apple is well-positioned to leverage its carrier relationships to ensure success of its 5G-enabled iPhones, recover from this quarter's China setback, and gain momentum for Services revenue from Q4 Apple One and Apple Fitness+ launches."