Apple profit soars on iPod players and strong back-to-school computer sales

Fueled by record sales of its iPod players and strong back-to-school computer sales, Apple Computer Inc. said yesterday its fourth-quarter net income surged more than 300 percent to $430 million (Ђ358 million), marking the company's highest ever earnings and sales for a quarter and year.

The results, released after the stock market closed, beat analysts' earnings-per-share expectations but fell short of Wall Street's revenue expectations. Apple shares plunged more than 10 percent in late trading.

For the quarter ended Sept. 24, the Cupertino, California-based company earned $430 million (Ђ358 million), or 50 cents a share, up from the previous year's fourth-quarter earnings of $106 million, or 13 cents a share.

Excluding a special 12-cents-a-share tax benefit, Apple said it would have earned 38 cents a share. On that basis, the results exceeded the per-share estimate among Wall Street analysts by a penny, according to research firm Thomson Financial.

Revenue rose to $3.68 billion (Ђ3.1 billion) from $2.35 billion in the same fourth quarter last year. Analysts were expecting $3.73 billion (Ђ3.1 billion) in sales for the quarter.

For the year, Apple said it earned $1.335 billion (Ђ1.11 billion) on revenue of $13.93 billion (Ђ11.59 billion).

Apple is riding high on the success of its popular and ever-evolving line of iPods. The continued innovation of the iconic music player has nearly tripled Apple's share price from its 52-week low of $18.83 on Dec. 12, 2004.

The company is set to unveil yet another new product Wednesday, and industry observers speculate it will be an iPod capable of playing video, reported AP.