Apple Wins the Race to $1 Trillion: Here Are the Key Insights From This Quarter's Earnings Reports
“Follow the money, and see where it goes.” That’s a line from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit musical Hamilton, but it’s just as applicable in 2018 -- especially when public companies release quarterly earnings reports.
Within the last two weeks, a large swath of big names including Amazon, Facebook, Spotify, Apple and Tesla divulged revenue numbers.
Some results weren’t staggering: Prominent chains including Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Chipotle Mexican Grill released quarterly earnings on par with analysts’ estimates, and telecommunications giants including AT&T, Verizon and Comcast reported revenue just slightly above predictions.
As for the outliers? SunCoke Energy, Inc. -- a raw material processing and handling company in the steel and power arena -- led the charge when it came to surprise Q2 earnings growth, reporting earnings per share at 650 percent above analysts’ estimates. And on the other end of the energy spectrum, solar panel manufacturer First Solar Inc. shattered predictions of earnings per share with a 2,400 percent drop.
We looked at analysts’ estimates of earnings per share, then compared it to the companies’ reported numbers. Here’s a rundown of the big names that surprised us.
Last week, Amazon dropped a bombshell earnings report. Analysts pegged the ecommerce giant’s earnings at $2.50 per share, but the report revealed almost double that, at more than $5 per share. That’s a positive surprise of close to 103 percent. Overall, the company reported $2.5 billion in Q2 profits, or 13 times more than it reported in the same period last year. Much of this success is attributed to its cloud and ad businesses.
The micro-blogging platform announced its third profitable quarter in a row, raking in $711 million for Q2 compared to analysts’ expected $696 million. However, a notable drop in expected users by 1 million -- due in part to Twitter's purging of bot accounts -- meant that when the market opened last Friday, shares were already down 14 percent.
The social media giant reported earnings of $1.74 per share, just about 1 percent more than analysts’ estimates. That relative steadiness is surprising in itself, especially in the wake of Facebook’s infamous and ongoing user data sandal -- and the fact that last Thursday, the company’s stock price dropped a record $124 billion in a single day, making it the largest one-day loss of value in history for a U.S. traded company.
Analysts predicted Alphabet stock would net earnings per share of $9.59, but after the European Union charged its subsidiary, Google, with a $5 billion fine for an antitrust violation, the company released two different sets of quarterly earnings -- including and excluding fines. If you count the fines, the company reported earnings of just $4.54 per share -- less than half of analysts’ estimates. But without taking fines into account, that per-share revenue jumps to $11.75, surpassing predictions. The company’s global digital ad business likely had a heavy hand in revenue.
Spotify disappointed investors last week with reported losses of $2.20 per share, an almost 224 percent drop compared to analysts’ estimates, which pegged per-share losses at 68 cents. This was only Spotify’s second quarter as a public company, and although it’s still not profitable -- royalties for artists and record labels are proving costly -- it did report significant gains for user numbers. The streaming service now boasts 83 million paid subscribers, up 40 percent year over year.
Analysts lowballed Columbia’s earnings, estimating losses of 1 cent per share, but the sportswear giant exceeded expectations on a wide scale, reporting 16 cent gains per share -- totaling a positive surprise of 260 percent. That’s especially notable when compared to foot- and sportswear company Under Armour, which reported a loss of 8 cents per share.
The tech giant released a strong earnings report Tuesday, with earnings per share at $2.34 -- about a 7 percent spike compared to analysts’ predictions. (This report was Q3 for Apple rather than Q2, as the company denotes its fiscal year differently.) A large chunk of this growth can be attributed to Apple’s “other products” category (such as the Apple Watch, the HomePod and AirPods), which is up 37 percent since the same time last year, and its “other services” category (the App Store, Apple Pay, AppleCare and more). And although the EPS surprise factor here isn’t especially consequential, the company’s new market cap is. As of Thursday morning, Apple became the first $1 trillion company in U.S. history, as the company’s stock enjoyed a spike post-earnings report.
For Q2, Tesla reported per-share losses of $2.92, which is about 16 percent less than what analysts were expecting. Although not especially significant percentage-wise, this is notable because it seems the automaker could finally be on its way to cash-flow positive. On Tesla’s Wednesday earnings call, CEO Elon Musk apologized to Wall Street analysts he offended last quarter by calling their questions “boring” and “bonehead[ed]” and expressed his hopes that the automaker would reach profitability by Q3. After his statements, the company’s shares saw a significant bump, rising as much as 13 percent.