Apple has posted the largest quarterly earnings in global corporate history, raking in $18 billion (£11.8bn) during the final three months of 2014, 40% up on the same period last year.

Those earnings beat the previous record of $16.24bn, set by Russian energy company Gazprom, with Royal Dutch Shell in third at $15.68bn and fellow US company Exxon is fourth, with $14.8bn.

Revenue for Apple stood at $74.6bn, up 30% on last year and well above the $67.5m predicted by analysts. Apple now has $178bn sitting in the bank.

The bumper quarter was spurred on by the sale of 74.5 million iPhones, of which a significant number were sold in China, where the iPhone has only recently been sold through official channels. Apple plans to open more than 40 stores in China over the next 12 months.

During a call with analysts, CEO Tim Cook said the iPhone 6 sold better than the larger iPhone 6 Plus, but refused to go into any more detail, beyond saying that some countries preferred the Plus.

iPad sales down 18% on last year

But sales of other products weren't quite as impressive. Apple sold 21.4 million iPads, down 18% from the 26 million it sold in the same three months last year, but just shy of the 21.5 million predicted by analysts.

However, being released in early October meant the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 were only on sale for 7.5 weeks of the 12-week quarter. Demand for Apple's tablets may have slowed, but the company is still expected to release a large 12.2in version of the iPad later this year, possibly to be sold as a rival to the productivity-focused Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

Meanwhile, Mac sales stood at 5.519 million, slightly below the 5.58 million expected by Wall Street, but above the 4.84 million sold last year.

"We'd like to thank our customers for an incredible quarter, which saw demand for Apple products soar to an all-time high," Cook said in a statement. "Our revenue grew 30% over last year to $74.6bn, and the execution by our teams to achieve these results was simply phenomenal."

Apple's share price was up 5% in after-hours trading, at $109.14.

One glaring omission from Apple's results were iPod sales. What was once the company's halo product has now been relegated to appear in the "other products" category of its balance sheet, along with the Apple TV set-top box.

iPod revenue was just $140 million for the quarter - less than 1% of the company's total revenue. Just nine years ago the iPod family represented more than half of all revenue.

Looking ahead to the next quarter, Apple expects to record between $52bn and $55bn of revenue, with analysts expecting $53.17bn.