Earnings season is just about here. Some of the earlier companies to post results every quarter -- Bank of America and Netflix -- report their fourth-quarter results on Jan. 19 and 20, respectively. As investors brace for earnings season, one company worth putting on their calendar is Apple (AAPL 1.56%). The tech giant's stock has been an outperformer in recent months, rising more than 20% since the beginning of October. Will the tech company's recent business performance live up to the hype surrounding the stock?
Apple reports its fiscal first-quarter earnings on Jan. 27. Ahead of the earnings report, here's a close look at some of the areas investors may want to check on.
Analysts have big expectations for Apple's top line. On average, they expect revenue of $118 billion for the period. Though this only represents about 6% year-over-year growth, it's a bullish forecast when you put it into context. First, consider the tough comparison Apple is up against. Revenue in the year-ago period rose 29% year over year. Second, supply constraints and logistical challenges in the company's most recently reported quarter were so great that management opted to refrain from providing specific revenue guidance for fiscal Q1, coinciding with the fourth calendar quarter. In addition, Apple management said it expected the pain from supply challenges to persist in fiscal Q1.
"We estimate the impact from supply constraints will be larger during the December quarter," management said in the company's fiscal fourth-quarter earnings call.
But if Apple does a good job of mitigating supply chain challenges, the December quarter could be quite impressive; management said Apple was seeing "high demand" for its products. In addition, management said it expects "revenue for each product category to grow on a year-over-year basis, except for iPad, which we expect to decline year over year due to supply constraints."
Earnings per share
Analysts expect Apple's earnings per share to grow even faster than revenue. On average, analysts are modeling for earnings per share of $1.88, representing year-over-year growth of 12%.
Apple's earnings per share typically grow faster than its revenue because of the company's aggressive share repurchases. By reducing total share count over time, Apple's net income is spread across a shrinking number of shares, contributing to earnings-per-share growth.
Another important metric investors will probably look to is management's guidance for its fiscal second-quarter revenue. Currently, analysts seem to have a very conservative view for the quarter, with the consensus estimate calling for revenue of $90.4 billion. That's only slightly above the $89.6 billion of revenue the company reported in the second quarter of fiscal 2021.
Just as was the case for fiscal Q1, the light revenue forecast stems from Apple's tough year-ago comparisons and an uncertain operating environment. But it's possible analysts are being too conservative.
Overall, supply chain and logistical challenges mean that Apple's upcoming earnings report is a bit of a wildcard; Apple's business performance could be anywhere from poor to outstanding relative to analyst estimates. But in order for the company to keep investors excited, Apple will likely have to report revenue, earnings per share, and revenue guidance ahead of analysts' estimates.
Apple reports its fiscal first-quarter results after market close on Thursday, Jan. 27.