At this point, the biggest surprise of a quarterly results statement from Apple would be if the company inexplicably lost a bunch of money. But, given the lack of an asteroid impact in Cupertino, we’re left with the expected: Apple reported massive profits in nearly all of its products for its Q2 2012 time period. With revenues of $39.2 billion and a net profit of $11.6 billion ($12.30 per diluted share), the company’s profits are up 94 percent compared to the year-ago quarter (see “Apple Breaks More Records for Q2 2011,” 21 April 2011).
Those numbers, while impressive, don’t reveal some of the more interesting aspects of how and where Apple is making its money.
A large chunk of the revenue came from sales of 35.1 million iPhones during the quarter (compared to 18.7 million in Q2 2011), and an impressive 11.8 million iPads (compared to 4.7 million during last year’s corresponding quarter). The latter includes the third-generation iPad, which went on sale in the middle of March, contributing just three weeks of sales to the quarter. Apple didn’t break out sales numbers between the third-generation iPad and the iPad 2, but it did report opening weekend sales of 3 million units on 19 March 2012. Still, that indicates sales of the iPad 2 — which continues to be sold, at a lower $399 price — likely didn’t slow much in anticipation of the new model. In a conference call with analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that Apple has sold 67 million iPads since its introduction just two years ago. That target, he said, took 24 years to reach for the Mac, 5 years for the iPod, and 3 years for the iPhone.
Mac sales increased, climbing to 4 million units from 3.76 million units in the year-ago quarter. Mac portables contributed more than twice as many sales as Mac desktops (2.8 million versus 1.2 million, PDF link). That represents 7 percent growth compared to the overall PC market, the 24th straight quarter of growth. One of my favorite, consistent statistics held true yet again: half of the Macs sold in retail channels like the Apple Store were bought by customers new to the Mac.
Continuing a recent trend, iPod sales were down 15 percent from last year, 7.7 million units in total. Apple noted that the iPod touch sales represented about half of total iPod results, with the remaining models — the iPod nano, shuffle, and classic — made up the other half. The iPod continues to account for over 70 percent of the portable music player market.
Also worth noting: since Apple introduced iCloud in October 2011, the free service has signed up more than 125 million customers.
With these results, Apple now has approximately $110.2 billion in cash and securities. (Only two years ago, we speculated what Apple could do with its at-the-time astonishing $40 billion war chest; see “What Apple Could Do with $40 Billion,” 1 April 2010. Some of the future growth in cash will be slowed by Apple’s upcoming financial changes; see “Apple to Pay Quarterly Dividends and Repurchase Stock,” 19 March 2012.) Apple expects revenue of $34 billion for the next quarter, and diluted earnings per share to be about $8.68.
So where are these phenomenal numbers coming from?
One major contributing factor is Apple’s efficient supply chain. Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer noted that commodity costs were lower than expected. Also, he and Cook praised the company’s divisions for stellar execution. Apple exited the last quarter with “significant” iPhone 4S backlog and caught up in January (which Cook described as “the mother of all Januaries”), and also launched the new iPad with “significant supply,” contributing to that 3 million opening weekend; more products actually on the market translated into higher sales.
Still, both executives mentioned several times that Apple is currently selling third-generation iPads as fast as they can make them. Much of that success lies in Apple’s ability to secure necessary components and hedge against unexpected events like the catastrophe in Thailand that threatened hard disk supplies. Cook said that Apple works very closely with its supplier partners, and “pushes every button within our disposal” to acquire necessary parts.
But a more significant factor is Apple’s business in greater China, which contributed $7.9 billion in revenue for the quarter, or roughly 20 percent of the company’s revenue.
Cook noted that so far in fiscal 2012 — half a year — sales in China have represented $12.4 billion, while sales for all of 2011 in China were $13.3 billion. He attributed the boost to pent-up demand for the iPhone 4S, a 60 percent increase in Mac sales, strong demand for the iPad 2 (the third-generation iPad is not yet available in mainland China, but is being sold in Hong Kong), and a larger middle class that has more money to spend.
It’s important to remember that those results are still small compared to the country’s potential. There are only 1,800 places to buy a Mac in China, and while there are more than 11,000 for the iPhone, those numbers are much smaller compared to the number of outlets in the United States.
“[There is a] tremendous opportunity for companies that understand China,” said Cook, “and we’re doing everything we can to understand it.”