Apple Earnings Show Cupertino In Control

Image via Flickr/ James Maskell

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) earnings came in much better than expected on Wednesday afternoon, and investors drove the company’s stock up in after-market trading. Apple showed earnings per share of $11.62 for the first three months of 2013. The company’s revenue came in at $45.6 billion for the quarter the company records as its second of fiscal year 2014.

In the run up to the release of these numbers analysts following Apple were looking for earnings of $10.18 per share on revenue of $43.53 billion. Apple managed to sell 44.7 million iPhones in the first three months of the year, making it one of the most successful for the company on record, though well behind the 51 million units shipped in the first quarter.

Apple Spurred By Margin Boom

One of the most surprising numbers in the Apple report was the company’s gross margin. Apple recorded the number at 39.3 percent, up from 37.5 percent in the same three months of 2013, and well ahead of the 37.9 percent margin the company recorded in the first quarter of the current year.

Gross margin has always been an incredibly important factor for a slowing Apple, and yesterday’s earnings boom was largely based on better than expected supply chain efficiencies. It appears that Apple is able to push the costs of its hardware even lower than analysts expected.

Apple growth is based on new hardware, and reductions in the value of the stock are based on slowing sales or shrinking margins. Apple showed on Wednesday that neither of those are afflicting it in 2014, and it supported its shareholders well beyond the fantastic results.

Apple Delivers Fantastic Shareholder Service

Apple results were buoyed by a slew of measures designed to appease the company’s shareholders. With the stock lying flat or thereabouts for the last two years, shareholder anxiety is understandable. Apple has tried to relieve that anxiety in the past with aggressive value return programs. Nothing compares to the measure that Apple announced last night, however.

Apple is not only increasing its stock buy back from $60 to $90 billion, the company is also increasing its quarterly dividend from $3.05 to $3.29 per share and it’s splitting its stock into seven parts. That split may have the most dramatic effect on the company’s shares. It will make a part of Apple easier to own, and it may boost demand.

Despite the value that Apple is returning to its investors with moves like these, there is no technical salve for what ail the company. Apple’s accounting measures may support the value of the stock in the medium term, but the company needs new revenue streams in order to push its earnings higher.

Capital growth can only last so long before it needs earnings growth to justify it. Apple is still growing, but investors are expecting a lot more from Cupertino. Wednesday’s earnings report may have shown off a Cupertino in control of business, but that business is in need of new products.

Disclosure: Author represents that he has no position in any stocks mentioned in this article at the time this article was submitted.