Wall Street Low-Balls Apple, Gets iPhone and China Wrong

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple's ( AAPL) gargantuan second-quarter results took Wall Street by surprise, as analysts underestimated the company's booming business in China.

Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore, for example, had forecast Apple revenue of $33.7 billion and earnings of $9 a share. The tech giant posted sales of $39.2 billion and earnings of $12.30 a share.

Whitmore, like most of his peers, discounted iPhone sales, forecasting 26 million shipments, well below the reported 35.1 million.

The Deutsche Bank analyst, who has a "buy" rating on Apple, raised his price target from $600 to $650 in a note released today. Still, Whitmore warned of slowing iPhone growth ahead of a possible iPhone 5 launch in October.

Societe Generale analyst Andy Perkins also was among analysts low-balling Apple's numbers, predicting sales of $36.35 billion and earnings of $9.45 a share. Perkins expected 31 million iPhone shipments.

Daniel Ernst of Hudson Square Research was looking for revenue of $35.5 billion and earnings of $9.48 a share. The analyst, however, did expect upside to his prediction of 28 million iPhone sales.

JPMorgan analyst Mark Moskowitz was close to Apple's revenue number, predicting total sales of $39.1 billion in a note released in early April. The analyst's earnings estimate of $10.80 a share, however, was wide of the mark. Moskowitz expected 31.1 million iPhones.

China was clearly an unknown quantity for many analysts heading into Apple's second quarter, with the country a larger growth catalyst than anticipated.

Speaking during a conference call late Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company enjoyed an "incredible" three months in greater China, which includes Hong Kong. The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm brought in record China revenue of $7.9 billion, he said, a three-fold increase on the prior year's quarter.

Apple's performance was clearly boosted by the launch of the iPhone 4S in China in January and the addition of China Telecom as an iPhone partner in March. The iPhone 4S is now available in more than 100 countries and is sold via 230 carriers, according to Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer.

Apple shares climbed $47.71, or 8.5%, to $607.99 today.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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