Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

Analysts cautious ahead of Apple's earnings release

October 25, 2012: 7:57 AM ET

Lowered expectations after Tim Cook's Tuesday bombshell

Click to enlarge.

FORTUNE -- On Monday, Wall Street's consensus for Apple's (AAPL) fourth quarter report -- scheduled to be released today after the markets close -- was for earnings of $8.85 on sales of $36.32 billion.

By Thursday, according to Thomson Financial, those numbers had dropped to $8.75 and $35.8 billion. And among some of the analysts who revised their estimates this week, expectations were even lower.

What changed? CEO Tim Cook announced Tuesday at the iPad mini event that the company sold its 100 millionth iPad two weeks earlier.

He said this as if it were good news. For most analysts, it was just the opposite, because it suggested that their estimates of iPad sales for Q4 -- which had ranged as high as 23 million -- were far too optimistic. (See Apple analysts scramble to lower their Q4 iPad estimates.)

Of the nearly 70 analysts we polled in advance of Tuesday's bombshell, about half sent us revised estimates over the past two days.

The charts above, which replace those we assembled before the announcement, reflect the estimates of only those 36 analysts -- 20 professionals and 16 independents -- who updated their numbers. The convergence of the two groups that we observed two days ago has become even more pronounced.

On average, the pros are now looking for Apple to report earnings per share of $8.75 on sales of $35.51 billion.

The independents are expecting earnings of $9.66 on sales of $37.23 billion.

That's a gap of $1.72 billion (5%) on revenue and $1.32 (10.5%) on EPS.

$1.72 billion might seem like a pretty big discrepancy, but two days ago the gap was $2.79 billion and in previous quarters it's been as large as $6.8 billion.

Below the fold: The individual estimates of the 36 analysts who submitted revised numbers, with the pros in blue and the independents in green, sorted per reader request by the bottom line (i.e. earnings).

We'll find out who was closest to the mark when Apple reports its actual earnings about 30 minutes after today's closing bell. And we'll be back Friday morning to rank these 36 analysts from best to worst in a somewhat constrained version of our quarterly Earnings Smackdown.

Click to enlarge.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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