[Originally posted April 23, 2009 on Fortune.com]
No analyst we know of correctly predicted Apple's (AAPL) second fiscal quarter results for 2009, in which the company proved that computer makers don't have to slash prices or build "junky" $400 netbooks to weather an economic storm. But some analysts did better than others.
Who did best?
Let's look at the numbers. The table below represents the estimates of all the Wall Street analysts whose numbers we could get our hands on, as well as those of three of the most prominent blogger analysts. (We could have included lots more bloggers; everybody these days seems to have an Apple earnings spreadsheet in their hard drive.)
In our chart, the actual results and the most accurate estimates are highlighted in green. The worst estimates are highlighted in red. There were several ties.
The professionals and the bloggers scored roughly the same -- which in itself tells you something. As usual, the bloggers were more bullish than the pros, but this quarter Apple's actual results in most categories blew past even the most optimistic of the bulls.
It will pain some readers to hear this, given his bottom-of-the-barrel target for Apple's shares ($95), but the blue ribbon goes once again to Mike Abramsky of RBC Capital, usually considered a Research in Motion (RIMM) bull and an Apple bear. He scored two greens and no reds this quarter. (Last quarter, when his price target was $70, he beat the field with three greens.) [UPDATE: CNBC's Jim Goldman reports that Abramsky reversed himself after that earnings report and has now slapped a $165 per share target on Apple.]
Tied for second place are Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster and Financial Alchemist's Turley Muller, with two greens and one red apiece. Muller gets the edge in our book because he hit so close and Munster missed so badly -- and inexplicably -- on Apple's earnings per share.
Yair Reiner gets special mention for having nailed that surprising high iPhone unit sales number (3.8 million).
In the department of strange bedfellows, Andy Zaky of Bullish Cross -- who never tires of berating the professional analysts for misunderstanding Apple, and has often singled out Morgan Stanley's Kathryn Huberty for special opprobrium -- ended up tied with Huberty in the iPod division, missing the actual number by nearly 500,000 units, but coming closer than anyone else in our chart.
And we can't close without pointing out that among very worst predictions for the quarter were those offered by Apple COO Peter Oppenheimer, whose guidance numbers missed actual revenue by $360 million and EPS by $0.33 to $0.43 a share. Talk about conservative guidance!
For those readers who submitted estimates that I didn't include here, you know who you are. Feel free to reiterate them in the comments.
Apple's detailed earnings results are available in its press release. An audio webcast of the earnings call with analysts is available here and Seeking Alpha has published a transcript.
Barron's Eric Savitz has published a round-up of analyst reactions to the earnings report -- including Abramsky's upgrade -- here.