US technology giant Apple has reported the biggest quarterly profit ever made by a public company.Apple reported a net profit of $18bn (£11.8bn) in its fiscal first quarter, which tops the $15.9bn made by ExxonMobil in the second quarter of 2012, according to Standard and Poor’s.
Record sales of iPhones were behind the surge in profits.
Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones in the three months to 27 December – well ahead of most analyst’s expectations.
In a conference call with financial analysts Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook said that demand for phones was “staggering”.
However, sales of the iPad continued to disappoint, falling by 18% in 2014 from a year earlier.
The demand for Apple’s larger iPhone 6 Plus model appeared to help boost profits and increase the iPhone’s gross profit margin – or how much Apple makes per phone – by 2% to 39.9%.
However, Apple did not give a breakdown of sales for the iPhone 6 and other models.
Apple shares rose over 5% in trading after the US markets had closed.
Analysis: Richard Taylor, North America Technology Correspondent
Apple’s impressive results represent a significant shift towards the massive untapped potential of China.
With a strong line-up of devices entering the final quarter, it was able to reap the fruits of its deal with the world’s biggest mobile network, China Mobile.
However, the success of its latest big-screen iPhones may have contributed to further cannibalising sales of the iPad.
The once unstoppable tablet is being further squeezed both by a resurgence in laptop sales, as well as by competition – both in an increasingly saturated US market and in emerging markets by lower-priced, rival machines.
All eyes now are on the Apple Watch – but with a relatively high base price it is not clear whether it will be able to woo more than the Apple faithful.
Apple’s revenue grew to $74.6bn in 2014 – a 30% increase from a year earlier.
However, on a conference call to discuss earnings, Mr Cook complained of “fierce foreign exchange volatility”, which added Apple to a growing list of US firms who have been hurt by the strong dollar abroad.
Apple said that currency fluctuations shaved 4% from its first-quarter revenue.
Sales in greater China hit $16bn in 2014 – a 70% increase from a year earlier, and almost equalling the $17bn in sales the company recorded in Europe last year.
A report by research firm Canalys released on Tuesday said that Apple had overtaken competitors to become China’s number one seller of smartphones by units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Apple also said that its newest product, the Apple Watch, was still on schedule and would begin shipping in April.