Apple's 44.7% gross margins are highest in at least 15 years

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Apple's record setting quarter included another major achievement for the company with gross margins of 44.7 percent, a number that was its highest in at least 15 years, and maybe its highest ever.

Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer pointed out his company's gross margins and helped to put them in perspective when speaking with analysts during his company's quarterly earnings conference call on Tuesday.

"I would also say that 44.7 (percent) is a high high," Oppenheimer said. "Higher than we've seen since I've been with Apple in 15 years."

Looking toward its next quarter, the CFO said he doesn't expect Apple to be able to replicate margins that high once again. Apple provided its standard conservative guidance for the next quarter, calling for revenue of about $32.5 billion.

"Last year, we did have a sequential increase in iPhones, and that was a big contributor to our going up sequentially," Oppenheimer said. "We don't see that reoccurring this year, specially from the high of 44.7 (percent)."

Apple's total company gross margin was 470 basis points higher than its guidance for the quarter. About half of the difference was driven by lower commodity and other product costs, while the remainder came, in part, from better-than-expected iPhone sales.

Apple's gross margins through the Sept. quarter (does not include 44.7% record in Q1 2012). Via YCharts.

Chief Executive Tim Cook said Apple was aided in the quarter by a favorable component environment, even in the face of a hard drive shortage that drove up prices of traditional hard disk drives. Cook said he believes that favorable pricing for components Apple uses in its products will continue into the next quarter.

Oppenheimer said while the component environment is expected to be favorable next quarter, which would help gross margins, Apple expects its gross margins will be down by about 270 basis points in the March quarter.

"And we see that largely coming from the loss of leverage on the sequentially lower revenue on the December-to-March quarter," he said, "(as well as) the nonrecurrence of one-time items, which benefitted us in the December quarter, and the stronger U.S. dollar that we've seen."