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Apple’s Q1 FY12 preview: Analysts expect iPhone 4S sales to boost earnings

Apple will report its fiscal first quarter results tomorrow for the October to December 2011 period during which the Cupertino, Calif.-based company saw the death of its cofounder and the record-breaking sales of its latest iPhone.

Apple passed the $400 billion market cap briefly last week, and it is the world’s second most valuable company after Exxon Mobil Corp. Its 2007-debut of the iPhone effectively piloted the touchscreen smartphone market, meanwhile the iPad carved a new consumer electronics category for the industry, as well.

Analysts expect earnings of $10.04 per share and revenue of $38.92 billion, according to FactSet, compared to Q1 FY11 where Apple earned $6.43 per share on $26.74 billion in revenue. Apple said it reckons earnings of $9.30 per share and revenue of $37 billion for Q1 FY12, but the technology giant usually underestimates its forecasts, and analysts generally ignore such predictions…

Subsequently, analysts predict a new all-time high quarter for the company after a meager fourth quarter. Apple tends to pummel analysts estimates, however its string of triumphs dimmed slightly during the fiscal Q4 when the iPhone 4S went on sale Oct. 14 in the U.S. and other countries about a month after the industry foreshadowed. Therefore, iPhone purchases came in lower than Wall Street’s consensus, as did analysts’ quarter projections for Apple.

The iPhone sales delay caused the July to September 2011 quarter to fall short of expectations and Apple shares sank 5.6 percent following the results release. Luckily for Apple, a slim Q1 FY12 is not in scope. The company sold numerous iPhones from October to December 2011, and the iPhone 4S was Apple’s No. 1 source of revenue for last quarter.

According to a Jan. 18 report by research firm Nielsen, the launch of Apple’s iPhone 4S had an “enormous impact on the proportion of smartphone owners” who bought an iPhone:

Among recent acquirers, meaning those who said they got a new device within the past three months, 44.5 percent of those surveyed in December said they chose an iPhone, compared to just 25.1 percent in October. Furthermore, 57 percent of new iPhone owners surveyed in December said they got an iPhone 4S.

Fortune compiled estimates from Wall Street analysts who predicted 29.74 million iPhones sold, compared to 16.24 million units a year earlier, which is an 86 percent increase year over year. A near-30 million estimate for this quarter would be around an 83 percent increase. The individual analysts’ numbers are available below.

Click to enlarge.

The other important numbers are how many iPads sold during Q1. Fortune polled 42 analysts and slated Apple as having sold nearly 14 million units this quarter (demonstrated in the Fortune graph below), therefore doubling the sales year over year.  Then, there is the Mac. Fortune quoted Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster as having figured 5.2 million Macs sold, which would represent about 25 percent growth from the same quarter last year. However, the firm lowered its estimate to 4.9 million units last week based on a “soft” sales report by research group NPD.

Apple shies from discussing new products during its earnings conference calls, but industry experts will listen closely for any hints on Apple’s rumored foray into televisions. Those who are interested can tune into the Q1 FY12 release on Apple’s Investor Relations website through a live audio webcast on Jan. 24 at 2 p.m. PT.

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