Analyst expectations up again ahead of Apple earnings call

In a note to investors Tuesday, Sterne Agee’s Shaw Wu discussed his company’s expectations for Apple’s earnings call Tuesday afternoon, which were up once again from earlier predictions. Wu’s revised estimate is only the latest, and not the highest, among a collection of analyst expectations that anticipate record numbers from the Mac-maker.
Wu says in his note that Apple looks to be on track to have sold 29.5 million iPhones during its first financial quarter of 2012, up from his firm’s previous prediction of 28 million devices. Wu hasn’t changed Mac or iPad sales expectations, which remain at 5.2 million and 13.5 million units respectively, but the increased iPhone sales lead him to anticipate $38.8 billion in revenue, and $10.34 in earnings per share. Before today, Agee had been modelling $37.7 billion in revenue and $10 EPS.
The numbers are relatively conservative when compared to the bigger picture. Fortune rounded up a collection of analyst expectations ahead of today’s call on Sunday, and found that the average revenue prediction among independent analysts was $43.14 million, with $12.01 EPS and 33.35 million iPhones sold. Among institutional analysts, of which Wu is one, Fortune found average revenue estimates were at $39.23 million, with $10.19 EPS and 30.25 million iPhone sold. Wu’s new numbers will alter those figures slightly upward, since his original, more conservative estimates figured into Fortune’s calculations.
Apple generally makes a point of being conservative with its own estimates of financial performance going forward, but Wu suggests in his note we might not see as modest an outlook as usual. That’s because the iPhone 4S launched in China on Jan. 12, Wu says, and because his supply checks suggest an iPad 3 launch is very near, which could definitely boost next-quarter performance. The 4S launch in China, which sparked riots and caused Apple to shut down physical retail store sales, certainly seems to have been met with strong demand.
We’ll have coverage of Apple’s quarterly earnings and the company’s conference call with executives right here, so check back to see how expectations match up with reality.