Apple Computer Reports a $17.2-Million Loss

Confirming its earlier estimates, Apple Computer said it lost $17.2 million in the third quarter, the first loss ever for the company.

Apple blamed the loss on a $40.3-million "one-time expense" caused by its recent decision to eliminate 1,200 jobs and close three of its six factories, moves made in response to a persistent industry sales slump.

Apple's revenue for the quarter underscored the industry's tailspin. For the three months ended June 28, revenue totaled $375 million, about 11% below a year ago. Profit for the same period last year was $18.3 million.

Although Apple President and Chief Executive John Sculley said the company's retrenchment has left it poised to prosper, analysts remain divided over the company's prospects of turning a profit before its fiscal year ends in September.

"It's an aberration in an otherwise stellar performance," Don Sinsabaugh, an analyst with Swergold, Chefitz & Sinsabaugh in New York, said of the quarterly report. "I expect the fourth quarter to be profitable because they have substantially reduced their costs."

However, Gibbs Moody of Gartner Group in Stamford, Conn., said he is predicting further sales declines and a small loss in the final quarter unless the market turns around significantly and quickly.

Moody said retailers will not be investing in inventory for the holiday sales season. They did last season and were left with large stocks. Furthermore, he said that he expects Apple to be hurt by other companies' copies of the popular Macintosh model, which are selling for as little as half the cost of Apple's machine.

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