Will Apple Beat Its Quarterly Earnings Guidance?

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Since 2012, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has launched its new iPhone models in September, during the company’s fiscal fourth quarter. As a result, Apple’s fiscal third quarters have become sales doldrums, as many consumers hold off on purchasing a new iPhone until the new models are launched in the fall. Although Apple reported record sales numbers for its 2013 June quarter, both revenue and iPhone unit sales numbers were outdone by the second and fourth quarters of fiscal 2013.

Not surprisingly, this year will likely follow a similar pattern. Apple has provided guidance for revenue between $36 billion and $38 billion for the fiscal third quarter of 2014. Yahoo Finance reports that the consensus revenue estimate for Apple’s fiscal third quarter is $37.81 billion.

However, some analysts are predicting that this year’s June quarter results may be a bit more exciting than usual. In a tweet on Monday, Asymco analyst Horace Dediu predicted that Apple will report fiscal third-quarter revenue of $38.624 billion, well above Apple’s guidance range of $36 billion to $38 billion. It should be noted that while Apple regularly underestimated its earnings guidance under Steve Jobs, the company has been providing fairly accurate earnings guidance since Tim Cook took over as CEO. For this reason, it would be exciting if Apple beat its earnings guidance in a quarter that is typically expected to be mediocre.

According to Dediu, iPhone sales will come in at 33.7 million units, while iPad sales will be at 16 million units. Both numbers would represent significant increases over last year’s fiscal third-quarter sales of 31.2 million iPhones and 14.6 million iPads. On the other hand, Dediu believes Mac sales will be down slightly at 3.56 million units from the 2013 June quarter’s sales of 3.8 million units.

Dediu is not the only prominent analyst who is forecasting that Apple will beat its earnings guidance. Wells Fargo analyst Maynard Um issued a note last week that predicted fiscal third-quarter revenue of $38.2 billion, according to Apple Insider.

Although Um’s revenue estimate is slightly lower than Dediu’s, the Wells Fargo analyst believes that Apple will sell even more iPhones. Based on the addition of new carriers and the availability of the iPhone in several new countries, Um believes that Apple will report iPhone sales of 36.5 million units. On the other hand, Um predicted sales of 12 million iPad units, significantly lower that Dediu’s prediction of 16 million units.  Um was also more optimistic about Apple’s Mac sales, with a prediction of 3.9 million units.

Although Um expects Apple to report record June quarter results, his overall investment thesis on Apple remains unchanged. The Wells Fargo analyst believes that Apple will soon have to decide whether it wants to focus on higher average selling prices/margins or unit sales, since he doesn’t believe that the iPhone maker can sustain both. Um maintained a “Market Perform” rating and a valuation range of $86 to $96 on Apple shares. Apple has announced that it will report its fiscal third-quarter results on July 22.

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