Apple's chief financial officer Fred Anderson has denied insider trading after sales of stock by company executives was called into question last week on Mac-enthusiast Web site

Anderson said: "I can assure you that no executive would have exercised options had they believed we would not meet our original guidance for the quarter."

Insider-trading analysts have labelled executive sales of Apple stock before two profit warnings in the last two years unusual.

Timing The sell-off of stock worth millions of dollars is unusual, as on each occasion the sales occurred just before the company forecast poor financial results. The announcements saw Apple's share price fall dramatically.

Lon Gerber, director of insider research at Thomson Financial, said: "These sells seem to be well-timed, coming as they did on the eve of two of three Apple earnings warnings over a period that began in August 2000.

Martin Friedman, director of research at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co, claimed: "It's always a bit suspicious when executives sell before a warning."

Other executives that have recently sold stock include Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's senior VP of finance, Avie Tevanian, Apple's senior VP of software engineering, senior VP Nancy Heinen, executive VP Tim Cook and board member Sina Tamaddon.

Apple denied any impropriety.