Apple top of $100bn + tech club

John Dix
13 February, 2012
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Ten years ago Apple posted revenue of US$5.3 billion, a mere gnat compared to the IBM elephant which topped all tech companies with sales of US$85.8 billion.

Oh, how the tables have turned.

Apple’s sales have now surpassed those of HP, IBM and even AT&T and Verizon, two US carrier companies that helped propel Apple to top of the elite club of tech brands that have more than US$100 billion in sales.

The fiscal years of the largest tech companies don’t neatly align so it requires a little work to get a sense of how they compare. Apple’s fiscal 2011 ended September 24, with the company posting US108 billion in revenue and US$26 billion in net profits. But if you slide the 12 month view forward a quarter so it spans fiscal 2011 Q2, Q3, Q4 and the all important holiday month in Apple’s 2012 fiscal Q1 (ended Dec. 31), the company recorded sales of US$127.6 billion and profits of US$32.8 billion.

That edges out HP as the top tech dog, which finished its fiscal 2011 year October 31 with sales of US$127.2 billion and an operating profit of US$9.7 billion.

But that still leaves a little discrepancy in timing, so let’s dig deeper.  HP won’t announce its first quarter results (for the period ending Jan. 31) until later this month, nor does the company give sales guidance, but the consensus expectation of 25 analysts tracked by Bloomberg Businessweek is that sales will be down 5 percent for the quarter to US$30.8 billion, meaning sales on a trailing 12-month basis as of the end of January will be US$125.7 billion.

Apple, on the other hand, has forecast sales will be up 32% in the next quarter, so a little math indicates sales on a trailing 12-month basis as of the end of January were US$130.2 billion.  The baton has officially been passed.

And what of mighty IBM? Big Blue is on a calendar year and reported in late January that it finished 2011 with sales up 7 percent to US$106.9 billion, some US$20 billion behind Apple for the same 12-month period. And even though IBM can hold its head high because its lusty 15 percent profit margin dwarfs what HP squeezes out of sales, it can’t hold a candle to Apple’s 25 percent margin.

AT&T, for its part, racked up sales of US$126.7 billion for the calendar year, just behind those of Apple. In its earnings release posted in late January, AT&T reported it activated more than 7.6 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, the majority of which were 4S phones that didn’t even go on sale until Oct. 14. AT&T’s total wireless subscriber base is now 103.2 million. Verizon is also in the US$100 billion+ club, with 2011 sales of US$110.9 billion and 108.7 million wireless subscribers.

All hail the new tech titan.

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