Apple wrapped up the final quarter of its fiscal year with a US$45 million net loss, as the number of Macs shipped sank nearly 14 per cent compared to the fourth quarter a year ago, the company said Wednesday.

The hardware and software maker reported a loss of $0.13 per share after one-time charges related to investment losses, restructuring costs and other matters. In the fourth quarter a year ago Apple reported a profit of $66 million, or $0.19 per share.

Revenue for the quarter, which ended Sept. 28, totalled $1.44 billion, about equal to the $1.45 billion in revenue collected in the same quarter last year, Apple said.

$7m profit hit by investments Analysts had been expecting Apple to earn $0.02 per share for the quarter before accounting for the charges, on revenue of $1.44 billion, according to analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial. Apple said Wednesday that excluding the charges it would have reported a profit of $7 million, or $0.02 per share.

Apple shipped 734,000 Macintosh computers during the quarter, down 14 per cent from the year-ago period. Its retail stores brought in $100 million in revenue, the company said in a statement.

Bouncing back from the down quarter, analysts have predicted that Apple will report an uptick in sales for the first quarter of its fiscal year 2003, when holiday shoppers are expected to drive sales of its computers and digital devices, such as the iPod music player. The company is expected to earn $0.09 per share in the first fiscal quarter 2002, according to First Call.

"The iPod has been an unbelievable hit," said Ryan Jones, an analyst covering digital media and consumer electronics with the Yankee Group, who predicted growth in the current quarter due to consumer sales.

"We're also seeing consumers gravitate towards multimedia applications ... and some of the user interface advantages that Mac OS X offers will make that an attractive choice for consumers in the holiday season," Jones said.

Price manoeuvring Despite some positive prospects, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in the statement Wednesday that Apple does "not expect our industry to pick up anytime soon."

Some price manoeuvring could potentially help the company compete in the market for desktop computers, Jones added. "They have lowered the prices considerably on their eMacs," he said, referring to Apple's desktop for the education market. "Typically the market (for Macs) has been price insensitive. So the question is, will lowering the price really help them?"

For the full fiscal year 2002, Apple reported net earnings of $65 million on revenue of $5.74 billion, compared to a net loss of $25 million on revenue of $5.36 billion in 2001, the company said.

Shares of Apple (AAPL) traded down $0.60, about 4 per cent, to close at $14.56 on the Nasdaq Wednesday, in a generally down day for technology stocks. Financial analysts attributed the broader market decline to negative earnings news from Intel and Motorola.