Apple reported one of the most sensational quarters in corporate history on Tuesday, and that day surpassed Exxon Mobil to again become the world's most valuable publicly traded company. Apple's stronger-than-expected performance capped an incredible run for the company co-founded by the late Steve Jobs, leaving some wondering just how much growth is left for a company that has grown so gigantic.
Learn more in an interactive graphic:
Apple vs. the world
Apple Inc. recorded the second-largest quarterly profit in U.S. history in its first quarter ended Dec. 31, earning $13.06-billion (U.S.), behind only Exxon Mobil Corp. , which earned $14.8-billion in the third quarter of 2008.
In the past four quarters, Apple has earned $127.9-billion in revenue. If Apple were a country, it would be the world's 63rd largest by gross domestic product, according to 2010 figures, ahead of New Zealand, Cuba and Iraq.
Apple's $97.6-billion in cash and marketable securities would be more than enough to buy every one of the world's 50 most valuable sports franchises, according to Forbes.
In its most recent quarter, Apple took in more than $150-million in revenue every eight hours. The Canadian Red Cross says that would be enough to pay for five years of maternal, neonatal and child health programs in four African countries, providing vaccines for one million children, access to clean water and sanitation for four million people, and malaria and pneumonia treatments for 800,000 children.
According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, almost one of every seven people around the world went hungry last year. By contrast, Apple sold nearly 190 million iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs combined in the last four quarters, or one product for every 36 people on the planet.
Apple vs. Canada
Apple's revenue, the past two quarters: $74.6-billion.
Research In Motion Ltd.'s revenue since the start of 2001: $74.06-billion (to end of third quarter, 2011).
Apple's profit in the first quarter: $13-billion.
RIM's total revenue, first three quarters of 2011: $14.2-billion.
Apple's market capitalization: $414.1-billion.
Market cap of Canada's five big banks and three most valuable energy companies (Suncor Energy Inc., Imperial Oil Ltd. and Canadian Natural Resources, combined: $415-billion.
Apple's $13-billion profit in the first quarter was more than the full-year 2011 profits earned by Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Nova Scotia, combined.
Apple's level of cash and marketable securities ($97.6-billion at the end of the first quarter) could pay off Canada's federal deficit more than three times over and reduce the $585-billion debt by about 17 per cent.
I want a new drug
In the past four quarters, Apple has sold 93.1 million iPhones – including a record 37 million in the most recent quarter – generating $61-billion in revenue. By comparison, in 2010, the world's top-selling pharmaceutical drug, Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor, earned $10.7-billion in revenue; while Altria Group Inc. , the maker of Marlboro cigarettes in the United States, generated $21.6-billion in cigarette sales and Anheuser-Busch InBev SA , the world's largest beer maker, generated revenue of $36.3-billion.
Fortune smiles on Apple
Apple's revenue in its first quarter increased by nearly $20-billion over the same quarter a year earlier, an amount larger than the annual revenues of 75 per cent of the companies on the Fortune 500. Here's how Apple has fared on the definitive list of largest U.S. corporations:
2001: No. 236
2006: No. 159
2010: No. 56
2011: No. 35
2012 (not yet published): Top 20 (Globe and Mail estimate).
Defining cultural moment
RIM: U.S. President Barack Obama becomes the first BlackBerry president, insisting that he continue to use the device after he takes office in early 2009, cementing the BB's reputation as a must-have device for important people. Newsweek frets: "Will the BlackBerry Sink the Presidency?"
Apple: A video of a baby girl getting frustrated as she tries to finger-flick a glossy magazine after adeptly manipulating the touch screen of an iPad goes viral on YouTube in 2011. "For my one-year-old daughter a magazine is an iPad that does not work," reads a message posted on the video. "It will remain so for her whole life. Steve Jobs has coded a part of her OS."
Why, despite the record quarter, Apple stock is a 'hold'
"The magnitude of the numbers and units needed to ship to exceed expectations going forward becomes increasingly staggering. We appreciate Apple's growth and valuation, but are not suggesting chasing the stock and prefer entry points on pull-backs. … Apple has a slew of fast followers producing offerings at notably lower prices, even though the company currently shows no impact from competition."
– BGC Partners technology analyst Colin Gillis, in a Jan. 25 research note in which he maintained his "hold" rating, but increased his price target on Apple stock to $500 from $450.