Update: The analysts were right to be optimistic, but not optimistic enough

As we wait for Apple to announce its Q4 results in this afternoon’s earnings call, more than half of the analysts included in Fortune’s survey expect the company to beat its high-end guidance of $37B. The average is driven up by the amateurs, who come in at $37.38B, while the professionals expect just a touch under the top end at $36.95B.

Predictions on both revenues and earnings do vary markedly, however. While the consensus view is that year-on-year revenues will be up 3 percent and earnings down 6 percent, even among the professionals the earnings estimates span a 15 percent range.

Top: FBN’s Shelby Seyrafi: $39.18 billion (up 9% year over year)
Bottom: Cantor Fitzgerald’s Brian White: $34.57 billion (down 4%)

Apple beating its own guidance wouldn’t have been remarkable in the days when Apple gave absurdly pessimistic guidance and then blew it away, but would be impressive since Cook started offering realistic ranges … 

Apple began offering realistic guidance this year, offering a range running from what it has “reasonable confidence” of achieving to what it “believes” it will do. In Q2, Apple slightly beat its high-end guidance of $41-43B with revenues of $43.6B, while in Q3 it came in just below its top-end number at $35.3B.

Looking at the individual product forecasts, there’s a clear  split between amateurs and pros.

The amateurs are more bullish on the top and bottom lines (revenue and earnings per share) — thanks mostly to their iPhone and gross margin estimates. But the pros — usually more cautious — are more bullish on the iPad, the iPod, the Mac and iTunes.

The official launch of the iPhone in China is the big unknown in the equation, with some big numbers being bandied about, but no hard data.

It’s also likely that supplies of iPhone 5s models will play a large role in the numbers. Demand was extremely strong, but production was struggling to keep pace with the gold model in particular, whose popularity appeared to have taken Apple by surprise.

You can listen to the live webcast from 2pm PT/5pm ET. The full table of analyst predictions can be seen below. We’ll of course be reporting the actual numbers as they are announced.


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5 Responses to “Over half analysts surveyed expect AAPL to beat its own high-end guidance today”

  1. Apple publicly stated that they would be in the higher range of their guidance which was 35-37b. How can analysts think they´ll beat even their updated guidance so close to ER? Beyond me. They are setting Apple up for a fall yet again.


  2. Analysts are short term bullish and long term bearish. They think Apple will have zero growth going forward. I don’t blame them . I hardly see Apple fighting against Android. I mean really how hard was it to come out with a larger phone?


  3. Will Norling says:

    Peter Misek and Brian White both have eerily similar iPhone sales, yet two very different positions on top line.

    China (and, to an extent, Japan) are both factors that could boost iPhone sales more than most analysts are giving Apple credit for. The big fear, at least for me, is the inevitably low number of iPads sold. Blame it on competition (the anticipation of Apple’s new iPad Air / others) or any number of factors, but iPad numbers could hurt. Daniel Tello might be on to something.


    • Ben Lovejoy says:

      China is certainly the wildcard here, but Apple is kind of in a catch-22 now with its guidance: don’t hit the high end and the market is disappointed, but do significantly better and it sets itself up for a fall next time in the age of realistic guidance.