The world’s largest company has had another booming quarter, the company that was the world’s biggest before Apple snatched its crown, Exxon Mobil, had a difficult quarter.Never before had Apple enjoyed higher sales. They came in at $78.4 billion in the latest quarter, on the back of 78.3 million iPhones – that was four million up on the same period a year ago. No doubt, Samsung’s troubles helped.
Mind you, over the course of the year, it was not so good. Apple’s sales actually fell on the year before, the first time that had happened since 2001. iPhone sales may have increased in the company’s last quarter, but they fell in the three previous quarters.
Drilling down, there were good and bad sides to the figures. iPad revenue was down 22 per cent, but the Service Division saw sales rise 18 per cent, hitting $7 billion.
Apple’s challenge lies in the probability that iPhone sales are reaching peak. Tablet sales are falling, while a certain new US President does not seem well disposed to the big techs, with Apple and the White House clashing over the travel ban from seven mostly muslim countries, for example.
But services may be the future for Apple: Apple Pay, AppleCare and digital content are collectively raking in the bucks, and there is lots of scope for growth.
But Apple’s big opportunity lies with the next generation of technology: augmented and virtual reality, the Internet of Things, wearables, health-tech and educational tech.
Exxon Mobil, whose former boss, Rex Tillerson is the US Secretary of State in waiting, saw profits halve in 2016, down to $7.8 billion. Part of the problem relates to the company knocking $2 billion off undeveloped fields in the Rocky Mountains.
Darren Woods, the new CEO, said: "Financial results for the year were negatively impacted by the prolonged downturn in commodity prices and the impairment charge."
But there is a whiff of controversy, why hadn’t it written down the value of assets sooner, after- all, the low oil price is not exactly new?
But while Apple is not flavour of the moment in Washington, Exxon, and the oil industry is. Mind you, oil companies don’t necessarily benefit from being in favour. After-all, they like it when the oil price is high, and that means less supply, not more as President Trump wants to encourage.
The Apple share price, at $121 (7am 1st February), is only $19 shy of the high set in 2015. It’s market cap is $636 billion. The Exxon Mobil share price is at $83, some 20 per cent short of 2014 high, its market cap is $345 billion.
But under Trump, is this the era of oil or tech? Whatever the answer to that, in the long run it is the era of tech.