Apple exceeded analyst predictions of $0.60 earnings per share (EPS) in its first quarter.

On the strength of Apple’s highest ever revenue and earnings, the company returned $0.65 EPS in its fiscal quarter (which ended December 31, 2005).

Apple posted revenue of $5.75 billion and a net quarterly profit of $565 million in the 14-week quarter.

These results compare to revenue of $3.49 billion and a net profit of $295 million, or $.035 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 27.2 per cent, down from 28.5 per cent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 40 per cent of the quarter’s revenue.

Apple shipped 1,254,000 Macs and 14,043,000 iPods during the quarter, representing 20 per cent growth in Macs and 207 per cent growth in iPods over the year-ago quarter.

“We are thrilled to report the best quarter in Apple’s history,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Two highlights of an incredible quarter were selling 14 million iPods and getting ready to launch our new Macs with Intel processors five to six months ahead of expectations. We are working on more wonderful products for 2006, and I can’t wait to see what our customers think of them.”

“We’re very pleased to report year-over-year revenue growth of 65 per cent and net income that was nearly twice the year-ago level,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “Looking ahead to the second quarter of fiscal 2006, we expect revenue of about $4.3 billion. We expect GAAP earnings per diluted share of about $0.38, including an estimated $.04 per share expense impact from non-cash stock-based compensation, translating to non-GAAP EPS of about $.42.”