Will This Be Apple’s First $40 Billion Quarter?

Everyone is expecting a record quarter from Apple, which reports earnings today. “We expect a big quarter from Apple,” writes analyst Colin Gillis of BGC in a research note, “and we expect most investors expect a big quarter from Apple. Our pet fish expects records from Apple.” Apple is expected to announce record revenues, earnings, iPhone sales, iPad sales, and Mac sales.

Here are the numbers Apple needs to beat today for an upside surprise when it announces after the markets close:

Revenues: $39 billion
Earnings: $10.08 per share
iPhone sales: 33 million
iPad sales: 13 million
Mac sales: 5.3 million

In fact, while the consensus revenue estimate is $38.9 billion, Apple doesn’t have to surprise too much on the upside to hit its first $40 billion quarter. To give you a sense of Apple’s expected revenue growth, it’s September quarter was $28.3 billion (And the year-ago December, 2010 quarter was $26.7 billion). So a $40 billion quarter would be a 49.8 percent jump from a year ago, and a 41.3 percent increase over last quarter.

That would be almost a $12 billion spike from the previous quarter. As a result, analysts are expecting $10.08 a share in earnings, which is up from $6.43 a year before and $7.05 last quarter. Apple had a very good holiday season, indeed.

What is driving this unprecedented growth is sales of iPhones and iPads and iPads mostly. Apple needs to sell 33 million iPhones and 13 million iPads to beat expectations. In the September quarter, it sold 17 million iPhones and 11 million iPads. Apple sold 4.9 million Macs last quarter, and Gilles expects a total of 5.3 million this quarter (Apple is now the No. 3 PC maker in the U.S alone).

On the downside, Gilles cautions: “Apple may run into a supply situation where it sells every phone it was able to make but falls short of expectations.” That should give you a sense how crazy-high expectations are.

Another issue for Apple is the rise of sub-$200 tablets, especially the Kindle Fire. Despite offering an inferior experience, the Fire could cut into iPad sales by as much as 1 million units, warns Gilles. Expectations of an even better iPad 3 this spring could also be holding back sales as consumers wait for the next version to come out.