SEC investigating publicity over Jobs' health

Even in a tough economy, consumers want their iPods and iTunes music.

On Wednesday Apple reported record profit and revenue for the quarter ended Dec. 27 on best-ever sales for iPod and its iTunes Store. There was one fly in the ointment, however: The boffo earnings report coincided with word that the SEC is investigating the company over the way it has disseminated info about CEO Steve Jobs’ health.

Last week, Jobs said he was taking a six-month leave of absence to deal with health issues after learning the situation is more complex than he thought. Earlier in the month, he had reassured staffers — and Wall Street — that his doctors had devised a treatment plan to address a hormonal imbalance. The health of Apple’s charismatic leader has been closely watched since he was treated for pancreatic cancer in 2004.

Jobs did not participate in the afternoon analyst call but did take time to enthuse about the company’s showing.

“Even in these economically challenging times, we are incredibly pleased to report our best quarterly revenue and earnings in Apple history — surpassing $10 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time ever,” he said in a statement.

Apple’s earnings rose 2% to $1.61 billion in the quarter, up from $1.58 billion during the year-earlier period. Revenue climbed 6% to $10.17 billion for the three-month period vs. $9.6 billion a year earlier.

The company sold 22.7 million iPods during the quarter, up 3% from a year earlier. The company said strong music and video sales drove a record quarter for its iTunes Store. ITunes brought in its highest sales ever on Christmas Day and Christmas week.

Music sales continue to dominate iTunes purchases, but execs told analysts that movie rentals are starting to lift Apple TV sales. However, the company stressed that Apple TV is “still a hobby” biz.

Apple’s performance was noteworthy due to the tough economic climate overall and recent struggles of rival computer manufacturers. Apple shares were up more than 9% in extended trading after the earnings report was issued. Shares were trading at $82.83 when the market closed.

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