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Apple profit rises on back of iPhone

STRONG sales of the iPhone helped Apple Inc lift its quarterly profit 15 percent, well ahead of Wall Street's estimates on Wednesday despite the global economic downturn.

The company also said co-founder Steve Jobs still plans to return from his medical leave as scheduled.

"We look forward to Steve returning to Apple at the end of June," Apple's Chief Financial Officer, Peter Oppenheimer, said in a conference call with analysts. Jobs, a survivor of pancreatic cancer, stepped away from his day-to-day responsibilities as CEO in January.

For the three months ended March 28, Apple's fiscal second-quarter earnings rose to US$1.21 billion, or US$1.33 per share. In the same period last year Apple earned US$1.05 billion, or US$1.16 per share.

Sales top view

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast a per-share profit of US$1.09.

Sales increased 9 percent to US$8.16 billion, topping analyst expectations for US$7.96 billion. And margins were better than expected, helped by low chip prices.

"Gee, given what's going on around us, we couldn't be happier," Oppenheimer said in an interview.

Cupertino, California-based Apple said it sold 3.8 million iPhones in the quarter, more than twice as many as a year ago. Earlier on Wednesday, the iPhone's exclusive United States carrier, AT&T Inc, said its earnings also were helped by the popularity of the device.

Apple sold 11 million iPods, up 3 percent. The tiny new iPod shuffle attracted consumers, as did the iPod Touch, which can run the same games and other applications as the iPhone but doesn't require a service plan.

But its Macintosh computer line didn't fare quite as well. People bought 2.2 million Macs, a 3 percent drop, even though Apple revamped its iMac desktop line in March.

And more people who did buy Macs snapped up the cheapest they could find, the US$999 MacBook or the US$599 Mac Mini. That, plus the year-ago boost Apple got from sales of the slim new MacBook Air, pushed Mac revenue down 16 percent.

In another sign Apple's high prices turned off recession-worn consumers, its average revenue per retail store sank 17 percent in the quarter.



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