As perhaps the most widely watched publicly traded company around, it's hard for tech giant Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) to surprise anyone these days.
Case in point: A kind of general consensus seemed to have emerged heading into Apple's quarterly earnings report, which it released yesterday after market close. For the most part, investors expected Apple to post modest results, almost dismissing the quarter as an understandably quiet interlude spanning the critical holiday quarter and its high-profile product launch schedule that will ramp up in the coming months.
They were dead wrong.
Having had some time to digest them now, it's impossible to deny that Apple simply shot the lights out in its fiscal second-quarter earnings, far exceeding what most thought Apple had in the tank.
Others have and will continue to break down the high-level storylines behind Apple's home-run report. So instead, I'll simply highlight three specific aspects about its second-quarter earnings that investors should love.
1. iPhone defies skeptics
Apple sold 37.4 million iPhones in the same quarter last year, and it appeared analysts weren't hoping for much more than that this time around. That's not what they got.
In the second quarter, Apple sold a truly impressive 43.7 million iPhones. And perhaps more importantly though, the iPhone sales swoon was driven by "broad-based" demand, not a single country or carrier. On the conference call, the company noted that it increased its share of the smartphone market in both developed and emerging markets North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region (especially in Japan and China). And although it certainly has a long way to go to cut into Android's iron grip on emerging markets, Apple also mentioned that the second quarter marked an all-time unit sales record among BRIC countries. Overall, the iPhone simply stole the show in Apple's second quarter, hands down.
2. More buybacks, please
If one driver were to challenge the iPhone's place at the center of the company's surprise quarter, it would have to be Apple's phenomenal use of stock buybacks as a means of adding value for shareholders.
Thanks to some positive impacts from the iPhones' enviable gross margins, Apple was able to growth net income roughly 7%, while sales ticked up only 5%. However, thanks to Apple repurchasing some $18 billion in stock during the quarter, earnings per share ballooned by an impressive 15%.
And while its shares remain depressed, management once again demonstrated that it's unafraid to put its money where its mouth is by further increasing Apple's already-historic share repurchase program. All told, its capital return program was bolstered to $130 billion in total, $90 billion of which is specifically earmarked for stock buybacks.
All signs indicate that management has no intention of taking its foot off the pedal on the buyback front so long as Apple's shares remain at currently depressed levels. Investors should be thrilled at this news.
3. Apple could possibly enter the Dow
Last and perhaps least expected of the highlights among Apple's earnings report was the announcement that shares will undergo a 7-for-1 stock split in June, effectively paving the way for Apple to join the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) .
As the largest publicly traded company in the world and one of the most iconic American companies out there, there's always been a fair case to be made that Apple would make a perfect, natural addition to the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The stock split will drive the stock price down to around $80 on a split-adjusted basis, which would put shares somewhere in the middle of the pack, roughly in line with other Dow Jones Industrial Average component Walt Disney at No. 15, in the price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average.
And while this is by no means a sure thing, the prospect of the mutual fund and index fund buying pressure that would come along with Apple's joining the Dow Jones Industrial Average gives the company's investors yet another reason to be excited about its prospects in the months ahead.
Well done, Apple
Across the board, this quarter was a resounding success for Apple.
Heading into the second half of the year, I'm a firm believer that now is as good a time as any to consider adding Apple's shares. In the past, we've seen how excitement surrounding Apple's product launch cycle can help bid up its shares into the holiday season. And with its product plans likely including at least one new product in addition to the widely anticipated iPhone 6, there's a fair case to be made that Apple's stock is as ripe for the picking as ever.
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