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Why Apple’s stock price fell despite a record $111 billion revenue quarter

January 28, 2021, 12:48 AM UTC

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Over the past year, investors have driven up the value of Apple from around $1 trillion to nearly $2.4 trillion—the highest ever for a public company.

Apple got there by reigniting iPhone sales growth, developing new subscription services, and adding some new hardware products like AirPods.

Now the question is what can Apple do for an encore.

On Wednesday, the company said its holiday quarter broke nearly every one of its financial records. Revenue of $111.4 billion, up 21% from last year and $8 billion more than analysts had expected, was a record. Profits of $28.8 billion, up 29%, was also a record, as was the sales total in every geographic region and in most product categories.

But with Apple’s stock price already up 80% over the past year, including a 24% rise just in the last three months, expectations have gotten even higher.

After posting all of the record results, Apple’s shares slumped more than 3% in afterhours trading to $137.67. Crazy gains at struggling companies like GameStop, AMC Entertainment, and Blackberry have grabbed headlines in recent days, but with Apple’s titanic stock market value, its 3% afterhours drop is equal to almost $80 billion.

That’s double the total value of all three recent high-flyers combined.

Part of the problem on Wednesday was that CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri tamped down expectations for the current quarter. Apple, citing the COVID pandemic, again decided not to provide the kind of precise revenue forecast for the quarter starting 2021 that it did before the pandemic. Maestri did say that Apple’s wearables and accessories business would “decelerate” and that its services business was particularly strong in 2020, so this year “faces a tougher year-over-year comparison.”

Another issue is that Apple’s next big move isn’t yet visible to outsiders. Reports suggest the company is working on electric cars and virtual reality gear, each of which could open another significant market for CEO Cook and his team to conquer over the next decade.

But Cook didn’t give anything away on Wednesday, despite a lot of prodding by analysts during a conference call.

“As you know we give some color on the growth rates of the current quarter but not beyond that,” Cook explained at one point. After running through the strengths of Apple’s current product line, the CEO added: “Then of course we’ve got new things that we’re not going to talk about that we think will contribute to the company as well just like other new things have contributed to the company in the past. We see lots of opportunity.”

Cook got a little more pushback when he was interviewed by Chris Wallace on the show Fox News Sunday a week ago. Asked about the car rumor, Cook replied that he could not comment.

“Well, you can,” Wallace shot back. “You may choose not to, but you certainly — you’re the boss.”

“You’re right,” Cook admitted. “I choose not to. Touché.”

To learn about Apple’s next chapter, investors will just have to wait.