Apple earnings jump 90%

Ringing up huge iPhone sales, Apple Inc. posted a 90% jump in profit that blew past Wall Street’s already lofty expectations and drove its stock to an all-time high.

The technology giant said it doubled sales of its popular iPhone over the same quarter a year ago, selling 8.75 million of the handsets since Dec. 27. That was slightly better than its record sales of 8.7 million during the peak holiday buying season last year.

The company’s second-quarter results stunned investors. Its stock soared to more than $257 a share in after-hours trading, gaining more than 5% over its closing price of $244.59. Apple released its earnings after the markets closed.

In general, consumer electronics companies see a decline in sales during the quarter after the holidays — but this year Apple sold more iPhones than it had in the holiday quarter.

“That’s never happened before,” Tavis McCourt, an analyst at Morgan Keegan and Co., said, noting that a substantial part of the iPhone sales came from expanding overseas markets in Japan, Europe and Australia. “It shows there’s tremendously strong momentum in that business.”

Profit surged to $3.07 billion, nearly double the $1.62-billion total a year ago, on revenue of $13.5 billion, up 48%. Apple earned $3.33 per share — more than 35% higher than analysts had expected.

“We’re thrilled to report our best non-holiday quarter ever,” Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said in a statement.

Apple’s report comes on the heels of strong earnings from computer industry bellwether Intel, which saw its year-over-year profit nearly quadruple in the strongest second quarter in its 42-year history. Both Yahoo Inc. and IBM Corp. announced profitable quarters this week as well.

Though Apple’s quarterly result was led by the iPhone, the company said it saw strong sales of its other consumer electronics, selling nearly 11 million of its leading iPod music players and nearly 3 million of its Mac computers — a 33% increase over last year.

Because Apple began selling its new iPad tablet computer after the end of the March quarter, sales of the device were not included in its earnings, but the company has said it sold more than 450,000 of the devices in the first week it went on sale early this month. The devices start at $499.

The company said a more powerful and expensive version of its iPad — equipped to run on AT&T’s 3G cellular data network — will begin to ship on April 30.

This month, the company announced a new advertising strategy meant to compete with crosstown technology rival Google Inc. The new product, called iAd, will be built into the next version of Apple’s iPhone software and allow it to embed advertisements into many of the small programs, or apps, that run on its mobile devices.

Apple’s earnings report came a day after the technology news site Gizmodo sparked an online frenzy when it published pictures of what it said was a yet-unreleased version of Apple’s iPhone. The blog said that the phone had been left in a Bay Area bar by an Apple employee, and that editors had obtained the phone by paying $5,000 to the person who found it.

Though the phone appeared to have been disabled by Apple, bloggers were able to decipher some of its features, including a front-facing camera that would allow users to video chat, a higher-resolution screen and a sleeker-looking square body.

Brian Lam, an editor at Gizmodo, said an Apple lawyer requested the return of the device via a formal letter sent to the blog.

But conspiracy theories swirled about whether Apple, a notoriously secretive company, could have possibly lost track of an unreleased product —or whether it might have been a guerrilla-style publicity stunt.

“The leak was done by Apple on purpose so they can give a hint that something new is coming,” analyst Trip Chowdhry of Global Equities Research speculated.

Apple did not return a request for comment on the lost phone.