Exxon Mobil owns this refinery in the US. The company reclaimed its place as the largest publicly owned firm by market value on Friday, one year after losing it to Apple, as the technology giants forecasts disappointed investors. Photo: Reuters.

Apple shares extended losses on Friday, ending a miserable week for the technology giant as the company surrendered its position as the world’s biggest firm based on market value.

Apple fell 2.36 percent to $439.88, giving it a market capitalisation of $413 billion (R3.6 trillion), while oil giant Exxon Mobil rose 0.36 percent with a market value of $418bn.

Apple first overtook Exxon Mobil in August 2011 as the most valuable firm in the world based on the value of its stock.

A year later, it dethroned longtime rival Microsoft as the most valuable firm in history with its stock valued at $622bn.

But the company took a bruising last week after a gloomy forecast accompanying its record quarterly profit announcement prompted pessimism over the company’s slowing growth trajectory.

Apple’s profit was $13.1bn on revenue of $54.5bn in the financial fourth quarter, with sales of iPhones and iPads setting quarterly highs.

Despite those figures, investors soured on Apple after it forecast that revenue for this quarter would range from $41bn to $43bn and gross margin from 37.5 percent to 39.5 percent, lower than expectations.

Analysts remained cautious about Apple, which had seen a meteoric rise to more than $700 a share last September but has slid 37 percent since then. The firm shed $60bn in market capitalisation on Thursday and around $10bn on Friday.

Some express concern that Apple has lost its edge in innovation since the death of co-founder Steve Jobs, and is losing ground to Samsung, which leads the smartphone market, and others using Google’s Android operating system.

Mirae Asset Securities analyst Jinho Cho said Apple was likely to increase carrier subsidies this year and launch an “entry-level” iPhone to compete better in emerging markets. “These moves by Apple should lead to stiffer competition for greater carrier subsidies among smartphone makers, thus driving down handset operating margins,” Cho said.

Getting into smartphone price wars would break from Apple’s tradition of premium products aimed at the high end of the market and bite into profits made from each device sold.

“While we are incrementally more positive on the stock, we also mention that competition is increasing,” Colin Gillis at BGC Financial said. “Competitors are using price as a lever to get traction in the market. Apple may also run into difficulty posting the volumes and maintaining its prices over the next several quarters.”

Since Jobs’ death last year, Apple has fallen short of high expectations for Siri artificial intelligence software for iPhones, while its smartphone mapping software was so flawed that the company apologised.. –

Sophie Estienne in New York for Sapa-AFP