Analyst: Strong December Mac Growth Expected

Mac sales for the December quarter are expected to be up compared to the September quarter, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. Over the past few days, he has interviewed 20 different Apple specialist resellers, and over 60 percent of them are anticipating higher Mac sales for the quarter.

The supply of Macs has been good at the store level, although iPod supplies have been "somewhat patchy" for the December quarter. 95 percent of the stores interviewed reported solid Mac inventory availability.

Mr. Munsteris original model for the quarter projected a one percent drop in Mac sales compared to last quarter. He comments "Contrary to our model, which calls for Mac unit sales to fall one percent quarter over quarter in Dec-06, 60 percent of the 20 Apple resellers in our group said they expect Mac sales in Dec-06 to be up from Sep-06. Only 10 percent of VARs expect Mac units to fall quarter over quarter in Dec-06, while the remaining 30 percent are expecting a flat quarter for Mac units."

He also points out that if Mac sales grew five percent compared to the September quarter, that could add an additional US$0.03-$0.04 to his current EPS estimate of $0.73.

The number of first time Mac buyers is increasing as well. About 25 percent of the buyers in the surveyed stores where new to the Mac. That number is lower than the 50 percent new-to-Mac figures for Appleis own retail stores, but is significant for specialist resellers. Mr. Munster stated "Apple specialist stores have a lower new-to-Mac average given they typically serve more of the professional users and existing Mac faithful customer base. We see, therefore, the 25% new-to-Mac number at these stores as a fairly high number."

Mr. Munster is rating Apple as "Outperform," with a target stock price at $99. Apple is currently trading at $88.26, up 0.84 (0.95%) in the pre-market.

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