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Kaufman Bros ups Apple target to $415 in spite of Steve Jobs' absence

A medical leave of absence from Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs has not deterred the firm Kaufman Bros. from its bullish stance on the company's stock, and even went as far as to up its price target to $415 on Tuesday.

Analyst Shaw Wu on Tuesday increased the firm's price target to $415, from $395, for AAPL stock. He acknowledged that shares of AAPL will be volatile after the news that Jobs will take a leave of absence from the company, but also noted that Apple's ongoing platform adoption story remains intact.

"We have the utmost respect and awe for Steve's contributions to technology and society and put him on the same level as the greats including Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, and Walt Disney (just to name a few)," Wu wrote. "But we believe like his predecessors, he has successfully embedded his way of thinking and philosophy into the culture of AAPL.

"For a company of AAPL's tremendous size where consensus is looking for $90.4 billion in revenue in (fiscal year 2011), we believe its nearly 50,000 strong (employees) don't receive enough credit for the company's great success."

Wu expects Apple on Tuesday to announce sales of 16 million iPhones, 6.1 million iPads, 4.2 million Macs, and 17 million iPods. But he also noted that there is room for upside on the company's gross margin, as Apple's guidance of 36 percent will likely prove conservative.

Other analysts chimed in on Tuesday with their take on the impending earnings call, as well as the announcement from Jobs. AppleInsider offers a quick rundown of those opinions below.

Ticonderoga Securities

Analyst Brian White advised investors to "stay the course with Apple" in the face of Jobs' medical leave. Still, he expects the stock to be under "heavy pressure."

"Steve Jobs deeply cares about his employees and the future of Apple," White wrote. "Thus, we believe he has been building a strong team that is able to successfully lead Apple into the future."

Like many, the analyst expects Apple to report a record quarter in its earnings call. He sees the company exceeding his revenue estimate of $24.17 billion, and also sees upside potential with his projection of $5.35 earnings per share.

Gleacher & Company

Analyst Brian Marshall has maintained his buy rating and price target of $355 for AAPL stock. He said that he is "saddened" to hear that Jobs' health remains an issue.

Marshall believes there will be material short-term weakness in the company's stock, but he sees that as a buying opportunity. He has advised investors to "get aggressive" if the price drops to around $300.

"Obviously Jobs is irreplaceable as the industry's innovator, but he has more pressing matters today than being CEO of AAPL, in our view," he wrote. "Running a $100 billion annual revenue company while being forced to take periodic medical leaves is not fair to anyone (e.g., most of all to Jobs, AAPL investors or its employees/board."

But Marshall has faith in Tim Cook's ability to take the reins in the absence of Jobs, as the chief operating officer successfully did in 2009.

Deutsche Bank

The fact that Jobs is retaining his CEO title could signal a shorter absence from Apple this year, analyst Chris Whitmore said. He also sees it as a positive that Jobs will be involved in strategic decisions for the company, but he also has confidence in Apple's deep management team.

"We believe Tim Cook is a proven operator and very capable of managing Apple's day to day operations," Whitmore said. "We also believe AAPL's product roadmap for the next 12 months is largely set and Cook (and team) will ensure crisp execution on that roadmap."

Deutsche Bank expects Apple to beat consensus revenue and EPS estimates, and has predicted revenue of $25.345 billion, with $5.60 EPS. Whitmore sees Apple selling 16 million iPhones, 6.5 million iPads, 4.2 million Macs, and 19.3 million iPods.

Needham & Company

Charlie Wolf still recommends Apple's stock, as he believes shares of the company were relatively inexpensive even before the news that Jobs would take a leave of absence. He noted that Apple has "one of the deepest managerial benches in this country."

"Jobs' absence should have no material impact on Apple's financial performance over the next several years," he said. "The major risk in the Apple Store is Steve Jobs' health. Risks arising from the competitive landscape pale in comparison."

Piper Jaffray

Analyst Gene Munster expects results from the December quarter to be ahead of Wall Street expectations. He believes Apple's earnings will be driven by strong and iPad and iPhone results, with a supply less constrained than in the previous quarter.

"iPhone and iPad remain somewhat of a wildcard, albeit positive, and we believe solid holiday demand could drive upside to Street numbers," Munster wrote to investors.

The analyst expects Apple to give its traditional conservative guidance for the March quarter, with revenue of $22.76 billion and $4.41 EPS. But he also said those numbers could be low given the impending launch of the iPhone on Verizon on Feb. 10.

Apple will report its earnings for the first quarter of its fiscal year 2011 this afternoon, and will also hold a conference call to discuss the results at 5 p.m. AppleInsider will have full, live coverage.