So much for expectations. Apple (aapl) blew past them all -- its own and those of a crowd of increasingly bullish analysts -- by reporting its most profitable quarter ever, earning $1.82 a share on revenue of $9.87 billion for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2009.
The Street was expecting quarterly earnings of $1.42 on revenue of $9.2 billion, according to Thomson Financial.
Apple's shares exploded in after-hours trading. Having closed at $189.86, shares leaped more than 13 points in the next hour and 40 minutes to $202.87 -- one thin dime away from the all-time high of $202.97 set in intraday trading on Dec. 27, 2007.
Sales for the year were a record $36.5 billion, up 12.5% from 2008. Earnings per share for the year topped $6.29, up more than 17% from the year before.
Strong sale of iPhones -- following price cuts and the introduction of a new model -- helped boost Apple's earnings.
But the big surprise was the Macintosh. Apple sold 3.05 million Macs for in Q4 -- a 17% increase from same quarter last year -- thanks to its new Snow Leopard operating system, re-energized back-to-school sales and a big order from the state of Maine.
"We are thrilled to have sold more Macs and iPhones than in any previous quarter," said Steve Jobs in a prepared statement."
Highlights from Apple's earnings report include:
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- Mac sales: 3.05 million units, up 17.3% year over year
- iPhone sales: 7.4 million units, up 41% from last year
- iPod sales: 10.2 million, down from just over 11 million a year ago
- iPod touch sales were up 100% from last year
- Gross margin: 36.3%, up from 34.7% last year
- Cash: $34 billion, up $2.9 billion from $31.1 billion last quarter
- Guidance for the December quarter: revenue between $11.3 and $11.6 billion, EPS between $1.70 and $1.78, gross margin 34%
Apple's press release is available here.
[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]