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Accounting rule change expected to take effect for Apple soon

While Apple has until December of 2010 to implement new rules for reporting its earnings, a report predicts that Apple will adopt the changes by its next financial quarter.

In his latest research note to investors, analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray said that the changes to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) from the Financial Accounting Standards Board, formally adopted Wednesday, will boost the company's reported earnings per share from $5.71 to $8.21. In addition, he believes the impact in the 2010 fiscal year will go from $6.00 per share to $8.90.

Munster has raised his price target for AAPL stock to $235, up from $186.

Apple heavily lobbied the FASB in an effort to change the GAAP rules. Under the previous restrictions, the company was forced to use "subscription accounting" and spread revenue from the iPhone and Apple TV over two years.

"However, the vast majority of the value of the device was realized at the time of purchase," Munster said. "While the value at the time of purchase as a percentage of the purchase price is debatable, we believe about 90 percent of the value of an iPhone is realized at the time of purchase. Under the previous rules, Apple was only allowed to recognize 12.5 percent (1/8th) of the revenue from each sale; under the new rules, the percentage will be decided on a case-by-case basis for each given product."

Apple is predicted to provide more details on the change, including when it will be implemented in the company's financial reports, during its conference call for the September 2009 quarter. That quarter, and the company's fiscal year, ends next week.

However, the new rules will not completely close the distance between GAAP and non-GAAP numbers, Munster said.

"Under the previous rules, there was about a 35 percent difference between the GAAP and non-GAAP numbers," he said. "Under the new rules, we expect there to be a less than 5 percent difference between the GAAP and non-GAAP numbers."

For 2009, he predicts a new GAAP earnings per share total of $8.21, while the non-GAAP will be $8.65. For 2009, he projects $8.90 vs. a non-GAAP of $9.30.