Apple's processor supplier Motorola yesterday reported massively improved financial results after many quarters in the doldrums.

Net income and sales in the company's first quarter improved, with good performance in all its operating segments. The company's semiconductor division – which will be spun out as 'Freescale Semiconductor' later this year if the US Securities and Exchange Commission agrees to the move – also delivered positive results.

Motorola's semiconductor unit reported sales of $1.4 billion, up 21 per cent from $1.15 billion. The increase was attributed to sales of products for the networking and wireless markets. The division supplies G4 processors to Apple – including the fast 1.5GHz G4s in the new PowerBooks Apple announced this week.

Motorola reported first-quarter net income of $609 million, or $0.25 per share, compared to $169 million, or $0.07 per share, in the year-ago period. Net sales came in at $8.56 billion, up from $6.04 billion in the same quarter last year, Motorola said.

The results exceeded both analysts and Motorola's own predictions. In January, the company predicted net income of between $0.05 and $0.07 per share, and sales of $6.4 billion to $6.8 billion. Wall Street had been expecting first-quarter sales of $6.75 billion.

Motorola is also upbeat about the current quarter. It forecast second-quarter earnings per share of between $0.14 and $0.18, and sales of $8.2 billion to $8.6 billion.

The first-quarter earnings include $238 million in pretax income in special items, Motorola said. Last year's first quarter included earnings of $225 million before tax.

Motorola sold 25.3 million mobile phones during the quarter, up from 16.7 million a year earlier. Sales in its Personal Communications Segment were $4.1 billion, up 67 per cent from last year, the company said. Mobile phone sales were especially strong in Europe, Motorola said.

Almost all of the company’s other product segments, which include mobile telephony networks, TETRA radio systems used by emergency services, set-top boxes and embedded devices, delivered increases in sales and improved operating earnings.