During the fourth quarter 2012 Apple’s margin fell to about 38%, a level not seen since two years earlier and down from a peak of 47% in Q1 2012. Does this lower margin foretell lower prices or a loss of competitiveness?
Gross margin is a function of Sales (aka revenues) and Cost of Sales. Gross margin as a percent is calculated with the following formula: (Sales-Cost of Sales)/Sales. If dealing with a single product, Sales itself is the product of shipments and price/unit but since cost of sales is also a product of shipments and cost per unit, the shipments numbers cancel each other out and the gross margin reduces to the ratio of (Price-Cost)/Price.
So a margin drop can only be caused if one of three things happened:
- Prices dropped
- Costs increased
- Both prices dropped and costs increased.
We can easily find out which of these was the cause in the fourth quarter because we have volumes and prices for all of Apple’s products. We can also derive total costs based a total gross margin. These are illustrated in the following retina-friendly diagram.
The fourth quarter of 2012 was 13 weeks in duration while the fourth quarter of 2011 was 14 weeks. The difference implies that a comparison of revenues should be done with an adjusted 93% of the 2011 values. The growth for 4Q 2011 relative to 4Q 2010 should also be adjusted on this basis.
The following tables show the unadjusted and adjusted growth rates. The adjustments apply to the bottom table and the columns highlighted.
As in previous scorecards, I used the following color scheme to “grade” the performance.
My thanks to all those who made Asymconf California the best Asymconf ever. We had over 200 attendees and, for the first time ever, 50 workshop participants and a panel session. The venue was spectacular: IBM’s historic Almaden Research Center and special thanks to Paul Brody of IBM for making it available.
Engagement was stronger than ever and I believe we moved the ball forward on a range of topics: The workshops helped solve some of the mysteries related to Amazon valuation and the main event looked at the limits of growth. The State of the Union took a look at the post-PC world and Apple’s inflection point. The panel session took on the future of TV and, including the audience, we had input from some of the most influential companies in the space.
We will scramble to make the proceedings (in the form of an iPad download) available as soon as possible.
Normal blogging and tweeting will now be resumed.