Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple said it expects fiscal second quarter revenue to be between $50 billion and $53 billion, below the $58 billion it generated in the same time frame last year. The world's largest company by market capitalization cited a number of factors, including pent-up demand last year for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, exceptionally strong currency headwinds and a shifting macroeconomic environment, the likes of which Apple hasn't seen in some time.
Not since the March 2001 quarter, when the iPod was just coming of age, has Apple seen such declines in revenue.
On the conference call, Apple CEO Timothy D. Cook noted $100 worth of non-U.S. revenue in the fourth quarter of 2014 was worth just $85 last quarter, as a result of weakening currencies around the world. "As you can see, the movement has been dramatic. Last quarter alone, the currency impact has been very large," Cook said.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect the company to generate $53.7 billion in revenue for the March quarter, but prior to the outlook, they had expected $55.5 billion.
Currency impact was of grave concern for Apple in the December quarter, knocking down revenue by an extra $5 billion. Not only did weak foreign currencies directly affect revenues, it caused Apple to raise some prices in some markets, which the company admitted hampered sales. CFO Luca Maestri noted it protected gross margins, "[b]ut inevitably over time, higher prices affect demand and so we're capturing that in our guidance."
Gross margin in the Dec. quarter was aided by a $548 million award from a patent lawsuit, which caused Apple's historically high gross margins to rise 40 basis points to 40.1% in the quarter. For the March quarter, Apple expects margins to be between 39 and 39.5%.
In addition to the weakened currency environment spanning the globe, Cook admitted that iPhone sales would decline in the March quarter, but not by as much as some analysts expected.
Both Cook and Maestri said that they expected the second quarter would be the toughest year-over-year comparison because last year there was pent-up demand for the larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. But they also noted that economic conditions had severely weakened from this time last year across the globe, particularly in commodity-based economies, with Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Canada and Australia getting mentioned.
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For the December quarter, Apple shipped 74.8 million iPhones, representing an increase of approximately 300,000 units year-over-year, a growth rate of 0.2%. That growth rate was be the lowest since the iPhone was introduced nearly nine years, in June 2007.
In a note to clients, Deutsche Bank analyst Sheri Scribner said the company's guidance "implies a significant decline [year-over-year] in March Q iPhone units, which likely drives a decline for FY-16."
Over the past few months, Apple shares have declined significantly following comments from its supply chain that cited weakness in orders, which many presumed reflected weak demand for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.
Judging from these results, it appears investors were more right than they knew.