The figure for the final quarter of last year is the highest ever recorded by a public company, beating the previous record set by ExxonMobil in 2012.
Apple’s landmark performance followed the sale of a record 74.5 million iPhones – which drove the company’s revenues up by 30 per cent to $74.6bn (£49.2bn).
Yesterday’s results compare to revenues of $57.6bn (£38.1bn) and net profit of $13.1bn (£8.6bn) in the same quarter a year ago. International sales accounted for 65 per cent of the quarter’s revenue.
Chief executive Tim Cook said: “We’d like to thank our customers for an incredible quarter, which saw demand for Apple products soar to an all-time high.”
Its performance was boosted by sales of the latest generation of iPhone – the 6 and 6 Plus, the popularity of which has been driven by bigger screens than previous versions.
Mr Cook said in a conference call with analysts that demand for the phones was “staggering” and results would have been even higher if not for the impact of the strong dollar on overseas sales.
The company sold 21.4 million iPads, down 22 per cent from a year earlier. Some experts have suggested that the launch of the new iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3 and the lowering of the original iPad mini price to under £200 could see a return to growth for Apple’s tablet.
The new phone models also helped Apple increase its share of the China market.
The company does not give iPhone sales by country, but a report by research firm Canalys estimates that Apple sold more smartphones in China in the last quarter than any other maker.
Apple is already the world’s most valuable company with a market capitalisation of $650bn (£428.5bn).
The stock has gained more than 50 per cent over the past year and rose by 5 per cent in after-hours trading on Wall Street on Tuesday night.
Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, said: “Apple has delivered a staggeringly successful quarter, as sales of its flagship iPhone products soared over the period. One of the main drivers for the success was the company’s increasing exposure to the Chinese market, whilst there were also strong contributions from Singapore and Brazil.”
Professor Loizos Heracleous, of Warwick Business School, said: “Apple’s strategy displays related diversification. Those who argue that its success is down to a single product do not appreciate the considerable synergies across Apple’s products and services.”
Before yesterday, Apple had already posted some of the world’s best quarterly earnings figures, at $13.1bn (£8.6bn) for the same periods in each of the three previous years.
Comparisons with other firms are complicated by the fact that companies publish profit figures in different ways, while among UK-listed groups quarterly updates tend to give trading figures but not earnings – these are left for half-year or full-year results.
But among the larger reported results are those from oil giants such as Royal Dutch Shell and BP.
Shell posted profits of $10.9bn (£6.6bn) for the third quarter of 2008 while BP managed a record $10bn (£6.4bn) over the same period.
The FTSE 100’s biggest company by share value is global banking giant HSBC. Its latest quarterly profit was $4.6bn (£2.9bn) for the third quarter of last year.
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