Mac sales up over 40 percent year-over-year

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Apple later this month is expected to announce fiscal first quarter revenues of nearly $10 billion for the three-month period ending December, fueled largely by the ongoing resurgence of the company's personal computer business, according to one Wall Street analyst.

In a research note issued to clients Monday, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster downplayed concerns surrounding Apple's retail channels, saying he expects the company to announce record first quarter sales of approximately 2.3 million Macs.

He noted that data from market research firm NPD for the first two months of the December quarter indicates that Mac sales growth was up some 60 percent year-over-year. Figuring conservatively, the analyst said sales of 2.3 million Macs would indicate growth of 43 percent year-over-year compared to 28 percent yearly growth during the same quarter last year.

Munster also discounted some iPod-related concerns, saying he now expects Apple to best his previous estimate of 24 million to 25 million iPods sold during the December quarter.

"While there were reports that Apple Taiwanese supplier Catcher missed its quarter due to a cancelled Apple order, we confirmed with Catcher that it did not say the miss was due to Apple," he wrote. "We now expect Apple to report iPod sales of 25 million to 26 million, which is slightly ahead of the Street expectations of 24.7 million units."

The analyst also expects iPhone unit sales of approximately 2.2 million for the quarter, which is

essentially in line with Street expectations of 2.26 million.

"The iPhone is still in startup mode, so '08 is more of a foundational year for the product than it is a growth year," he told clients. "We believe it is more important that the iPhone product line progresses in '08 (with feature improvements and price decreases) than it is for the iPhone to see significant unit growth."

Overall, Munster expects Apple to report per-share earnings of $1.73 on sales of $9.73 billion, which includes a gross margin estimate of 33 percent.

"While it is difficult to predict what the stock will do around the quarter, we believe the December results, coupled with new Macs announced at Macworld, will increase Street confidence that Apple will have sustained Mac market share gains in 08," he wrote.