APPLE said today it may take a number of weeks to address shortages of its iPhone 3GS and its MacBook Pro notebooks.
Demand for the new iPhone 3GS, which went on sale about a month ago, surged late in Apple’s third fiscal quarter, which ended June 27.
The spurt caught Apple off-guard, and supplies are now constrained in virtually every country the smart phone’s sold in, Apple executives said during a conference call.
The company is also battling a shortage of another key product: its MacBook Pro line-up of notebook computers. In this case, it appears Apple was caught off-guard by demand generated by recent price cuts to its MacBook Pro line-up, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.
Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook said both shortages should be addressed in a number of weeks. “We will get beyond this,” he said.
His comments came after third-quarter earnings rose 15 per cent as margins improved despite price cuts and revenue grew on improved Macintosh and iPhone sales.
Looking ahead, the maker of computers and electronic devices, which is notorious for giving conservative guidance, expects fiscal fourth-quarter per-share earnings of $US1.18 to $US1.23 on revenue of $US8.7 billion to $US8.9 billion ($10.7bn to $10.9bn).
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters projected $US1.30 and $US9.05bn, respectively.
Shares rose 2.5 per cent to $US155.28 in after-hours trading, as the company topped analysts’ expectations and reported its best-ever results for a non-holiday quarter. The stock is up by more than three-quarters this year.
Analysts have kept a close eye on margins, following aggressive price cuts on several high-profile products, including the MacBook Pro laptops and the iPhone 3G. Still, many didn’t expect the price cuts to hurt Apple’s margins too badly, as the company has been successful in locking in components like screens and memory chips when market prices are low.
Gross margin rose to 36.3 per cent from 34.8 per cent in the latest quarter.
Chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said growth was driven by “excellent execution” and component costs not increasing as much in the quarter as Apple had thought.
As to any impact from the macroeconomic forces, Mr Oppenheimer said, “we are very, very happy, but in a different environment, it could have been better”.
For the period ended June 27, Apple reported earnings of $US1.23bn, or $US1.35 a share, up from $US1.07bn, or $US1.19 a share, a year earlier. Revenue climbed 12 per cent to $US8.34bn, with 56 per cent of sales in the US.
In April, the company said it expected earnings of 95 cents to $US1 on revenue of $US7.7bn to $US7.9 billion. Wall Street’s latest estimates were $US1.17 and $US8.2bn, respectively.
The shortages in Apple are notable because of how important iPhone revenue has become to Apple. IPhone sales made up 19 per cent of the $US8.3bn in revenue in the third quarter. Meanwhile, sales of MacBooks are 26 per cent of revenue.
On the conference call, Apple executives said that they had recently placed a $US500 million order for computer memory. Such orders usually are a precursor to a new Apple product being introduced.
Executives also said Apple’s commercial customers are putting off spending, but that doesn’t yet have any material impact on Apple.
They added Apple’s iTunes has now sold more than 8bn songs, and, once again, said the company had no plans to build a netbook computer.