Friday, August 7, 2009

Apples vs. kumquats

Earlier this week, Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconagi estimated that Apple earned 32% of the mobile phone industry’s operating profit in the first half of 2009, or 25% if you throw out the companies that lost money. AllThingsD has a table from his report.

According to the table, Apple’s revenue is 1/3 that of Nokia but its total operating profit is more than that of the world’s largest mobile phone maker, and its operating margin is 40% vs. 11.3% for Nokia. (Presumably operating profit is business unit EBITDA).

I don’t have the report and thus am not sure what the numbers mean. (It’s interesting that the Apple operating margin is “40%” while all the others are calculated to 3 significant figures, suggesting this is an estimate).

Is it handset sales only? RIMM (with a 20.7% margin) might sell handsets cheap and make it up on services sales.

Does it include some iTunes sales? All iTunes sales or only those imputed to phone owners? Does it include the app store — where Apple’s rivals are still trying to get theirs off the ground?

In short, from what little has been reported, it’s hard to tell whether this is Apples vs. apples or Apples vs. kumquats, let alone what this says about Apple’s future profitability.

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