Apple reported its fourth quarter results today, announcing revenue of $36 billion and a quarterly net profit of $8.2 billion, beating its own estimates by $2 billion and the analysts’ consensus number by a very narrow $200 million.

One of the big stories in Apple’s results is slowing growth in international sales.

Forty percent of Apple sales are consummated in the United States. That may sound bad, but it’s actually good, and it’s up from the second quarter of this year, in which 36 percent of sales were home on the range, and the just-previous third quarter, in which 38 percent of Apple sales were consummated locally.

International sales strength has been a big part of Apple’s success story. Key products such as the iPad have even at times enjoyed higher market share in some Asian markets than in the U.S., and slowing sales abroad is not good news. China is definitely not the problem — Apple chief Tim Cook said in the earnings conference call that China revenue is up 26 percent year over year — but other markets are not picking up the slack.

And by other markets, I mean Europe and countries in Asia that are not China or Japan.

While Apple’s revenue in the Americas grew 43 percent, and Japan jumped 113 percent, Europe grew a relatively anemic 8 percent, to just over $8 billion. Asia Pacific — which includes China — must have had some very poor performers, since even with China’s 26 percent jump the region grew only 15 percent.

Bond author Ian Fleming’s antihero Goldfinger once said “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

This is the third quarter in a row of slowly growing international shifting. Sales are still up, of course, and this quarter’s $8 billion increase in revenue from the previous year’s equivalent quarter means that international sales are up as well.

But not, critically, at the same pace as domestic sales.

There is something happening in the international market that is slowing Apple sales. And it may very well be all those sub-$100 Android phones. Which means that Apple must beware of distancing itself too far, price-wise, from the competition.

That’s part of what the iPad mini can help fix, but questions abound there, too.

photo credit: Marxchivist via photopin cc