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Tech giant Apple has posted a 33% increase in quarterly profit on the back of a massive growth in iPhone sales and expansion in China.

Its larger-display phones, launched in September 2014, are helping Apple to see off pricing pressure plaguing other smartphone makers, including prime rival Samsung, and regain market share.

Net income totalled $13.57bn (£8.9bn) in its fiscal second quarter ended 28 March, compared with $10.22bn in the the comparable period in 2014. Revenue rose 27% to $58.01bn from $45.65 billion in the year-ago period.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the Apple Watch during an Apple event in San Francisco, California March 9 Reuters

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters estimated that Apple would post earnings of $2.16 a share on revenue of $56.1bn.

Apple also reported gross margin, a closely watched measure of profitability reflecting the percentage of revenue that remains after manufacturing costs, of 40.8%, above its estimated range of 38.5% to 39.5%.

For the current quarter, Apple again said it expects a gross margin of 38.5% to 39.5%. It projected revenue of $46bn to $48bn, in line with analysts' estimates for that period.

The firm also announced that it would expand its capital return programme to $200bn from a previously announced $130bn. Apple boosted its dividend 11% to 52 cents per share. The planned program goes through March of 2017, Apple said.

Chief executive Tim Cook said on the firm's earnings call that the buyback reflects "our strong confidence in what lies ahead for Apple".

He added: "We're seeing a higher rate of people switching to iPhone than we've experienced in previous cycles, and we're off to an exciting start to the June quarter with the launch of Apple Watch."