Stunning sales for iPad devices reassure Wall Street

Apple landed blockbuster results and a strong outlook on dazzling sales of the iPhone and iPad, reassuring investors that visionary CEO Steve Jobs' medical leave will have no impact on growth.

Shares in Apple leapt almost 4 per cent after hours following a brief trading suspension. It later backtracked to stand about 2 per cent higher, recouping most of the losses incurred after Jobs' surprise announcement.

Apple, once notorious for its conservative forecasts, said it expected earnings for the March quarter of $4.90 a share on revenue of $22bn, surpassing the forecast of $4.47 a share on revenue of $20.8bn.

An across-the-board show of strength came as Wall Street displayed increasing confidence in the management team surrounding Mr Jobs, who is seeking medical treatment for an unspecified condition for an indefinite time.

Investors were widely expecting a strong performance from Apple over the holidays, and the company did not disappoint.

"I expected a strong quarter but it even blew away my expectations," said David Dillon, a portfolio manager at HighMark Capital Management, which owns Apple shares.

All key product lines exceeded expectations. The company sold 16.2 million iPhones in the quarter, up 86 per cent from the year-ago quarter. It also had strong sales of 7.33 million iPads, and Mac sales rose 23 per cent on a unit basis to 4.1 million units.

Executives again said they could not build enough iPhones to meet demand. But it was the iPad, which executives claimed about four out of five Fortune 100 companies were now field-testing, that caught investors' attention. "The iPad numbers were huge," said Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu.

Meanwhile, a report by business advisers at Deloitte has predicted that more than a quarter of all tablet computers sold will be bought by businesses this year.

Rob Seldon, Deloitte's Leeds-based technology partner for the North, said the trend is being driven by the "consumerisation" of corporate technology, with people using personal devices for work functions.

By the end of 2011, the accountancy firm predicts that millions of "prosumers" – professional consumers – will have their tablet data plans fully or partially subsidised by their employers; and millions more tablets will be purchased by companies as PC alternatives.

Price could be an issue in the current climate though, it added.