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Friday, October 13, 2006, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Fourth quarter Mac revenues to exceed $2 billion - analyst

Merrill Lynch's Richard Farmer is the latest Wall Street analyst to tweak his expectations for Apple's fiscal fourth quarter to reflect lower iPod digital music player sales and slightly higher Mac sales.

In a research note released Friday, Farmer increased his revenue estimate for the company's fourth quarter from $4.57 to $4.66 billion and his earnings-per-share (EPS) estimate from $0.48 to $0.51.

"The changes are emblematic of what a broader thematic shift in the story away from iPods toward an emphasis on Macs and 2007 new product cycles," he told clients.

After reviewing some preliminary NPD data through the month of September, the analyst lowered his iPod unit sales estimate from 8.3 million units (up 28 percent yearly) to 7.7 million (up 20 percent yearly). However, he raised his estimate for average selling prices (ASPs) of the players for the quarter to be $184, from $177, to "better reflect unit mix from NPD."

"Due to new pricing from Apple heading into the holiday season we now expect ASPs to decline by 6 percent sequentially [during the first fiscal quarter of 2007]," Farmer said.

Offsetting slower iPod sales, according to the analyst, are slightly higher Mac sales due to "better than expected demand for new Mac Books." He now expects the Cupertino, Calif.-based company to report sales of 1.51 million systems (up 22 percent yearly) during its fourth fiscal quarter compared to his previous estimate of 1.44 million estimate (up 16 percent yearly).

Farmer, who maintains a "Buy" rating on shares of Apple, expects the company's Mac revenues to account for $2.025 billion for the quarter.