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What to expect from Apple's third-quarter earnings

By Andrea Chang

5:00 AM PDT, July 24, 2012

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Apple will release its third-quarter earnings after the markets close Tuesday, and -- here's something you don't hear often -- analysts say they aren't expecting blowout results.

Those surveyed by Thomson Reuters estimate Apple will post earnings per share of $10.36 on revenue of $37.2 billion. A year earlier, the Cupertino, Calif., technology behemoth reported record quarterly revenue of $28.6 billion and record profit of $7.3 billion, or $7.79 a share; that included iPad sales growth of 183% year over year and iPhone sales growth of 142%.

That $7.79 a share was a 121% increase over its third-quarter 2010 earnings. If analysts' estimates for last quarter hold up at $10.36 a share, that would be a 33% year-over-year rise -- not bad, but not as impressive as Apple's recent results.

The muted expectations this time around are thanks to softer sales for the company's iPhone 4s ahead of the iPhone 5, rumored to be a major upgrade for the popular smartphone. Many have pegged the release date for the iPhone 5 for the fall, so consumers may simply be waiting it out.

During the last few weeks, analysts revised downward their estimates of iPhone sales for the quarter, and say they expect Apple will report sales of 29 million units.

Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee, in a preview report Monday, said he expected sales probably would be at 27 million. "This appears to be more of a function of the transition ahead of the upcoming 6th generation iPhone refresh ... as opposed to weak demand."

iPad sales are predicted to come in at about 14 million to 15 million units, and Mac sales are estimated to be between 4 million and 4.3 million. The recent retina displays for the iPad and updated MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models are expected to have boosted sales for those devices.

Three months ago, Apple reported fiscal second-quarter revenue of $39.2 billion and profit of $11.6 billion, or $12.30 a share. The company sold 35.1 million iPhones in that quarter, an 88% increase from a year earlier.

Shares of Apple have increased 49% this year. They ended the day Monday at $603.83, down 47 cents.

Apple officials will hold a conference call at 2 p.m. Pacific time to discuss the financial results. Analysts say they also expect Apple to provide conservative guidance for the current quarter.

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Follow Andrea Chang on Twitter.