Apple Evokes Polonius With Shortest Earnings: Chart of the Day

When the world’s largest company reports earnings today, there’s one thing investors can count on: Apple Inc.’s press-release comments will be the shortest they’ll have to read among the biggest U.S. firms.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows that Apple’s earnings releases have averaged about 250 words of commentary over the past 10 quarters, compared with an average of more than 1,300 among the rest of the 10 biggest companies by market value that regularly provide remarks in their releases.

“There’s a Shakespearean phrase, `brevity is the soul of wit,’ and I guess the question is whether brevity is the soul of profitability as well,” Nicholas Colas, the New York-based chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group, said in a phone interview yesterday, referring to remarks by Polonius in “Hamlet.” “Apple is known for being very spare in their design and the sparseness carries over to everything else too.”

Apple has grown to become the largest company by market value, worth more than $575 billion as of yesterday’s close, through growing sales of its iPhone and iPad devices. Analysts forecast the Cupertino, California-based company will report fiscal fourth-quarter net income of $8.3 billion on sales of $35.7 billion after the close of trading today.

AT&T Inc., the first carrier for the iPhone, had the longest average commentary at about 1,900 words, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. International Business Machines Corp., Google Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. were next with more than 1,500 words each. Microsoft Corp. was the closest to its rival in brevity, averaging less than 500. The word counts excluded tables, footnotes, conference-call announcements and boilerplate disclaimers about forward-looking statements and business risks.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. was not included in the list because the holding company does not always issue an earnings press release. When it does issue a release, Buffett’s firm usually doesn’t include commentary and instead tells investors to read its quarterly reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which contain lengthy discussions of its businesses.

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