Was this Apple’s $20 billion quarter?

October 9, 2010, 2:50 PM UTC

The blogger-analysts say damn straight. The Street isn’t far behind

Source: Company reports and average Q4 estimate

Wall Street was more than a little skeptical in July when Apple (AAPL) CFO Peter Oppenheimer offered his revenue guidance for the quarter that ended two weeks ago: $18 billion — a 47% increase from Sept. 2009.

“We hadn’t girded ourselves for a mammoth revenue forecast,” wrote Oppenheimer’s Yair Reiner the next day, “and neither, we believe, had the Street.”

Like most analysts who follow Apple, Reiner assumed that Oppenheimer had abandoned his usual practice of low-balling the company’s forward-looking statements and was trying to blow a little smoke up the Street’s skirt. In the previous three quarters, Apple had beaten its own revenue guidance by an average of 19.3%. That would suggest actual Q4 revenues of nearly $21.5 billion — a number Financial Alchemist‘s Turley Muller described at the time as “too mind-blowing to even contemplate.”

A week after Oppenheimer’s report, the Street’s Q4 revenue consensus, according to Thomson Financial, was $18.29 billion — a measly 1.6% beat. See Who buys Apple’s $18+ billion quarter?

Three months and a few million iPhones and iPads later, most Apple watchers have changed their tune.

Of the nine blogger-analysts we polled, all but two expect Apple to report earnings of $20 billion or more, including Muller who’s put his marker on $20.313 billion. Among the 21 professional analysts polled, only one –Rodman & Renshaw’s Ashok Kumar — has crossed that divide. On Thursday, Reiner hiked his estimate to $19.864 billion. The Street’s consensus is $18.76 billion.

In the chart above, we’ve combined the pros and the bloggers to get an average estimate of $19.34 billion.

Below: The revenue and earnings-per-share numbers we’ve gathered so far. We’ll find out whose were closest after the closing bell on Monday Oct. 18th.

Unaffiliated Analysts Revenue EPS
Robert Paul Leitao, Apple Finance Board 21.49 4.70
Nicolae Mihalache, Traderhood 20.95 4.98
Daniel Tello, Deagol’s AAPL Model 20.56 4.73
Horace Dediu, Asymco 20.50 5.00
Alexis Cabot, Apple Finance Board 20.41 4.76
Turley Muller, Financial Alchemist 20.31 4.61
Jeff Fosberg, Apple Finance Board 20.01 4.79
Dennis Hildebrand, Apple’s Gold 19.53 4.40
Andy Zaky, Bullish Cross 19.11 4.45
Wall Street Analysts Revenue EPS
Ashok Kumar, Rodman & Renshaw 20.10 4.40
Yair Reiner, Oppenheimer 19.90 4.41
Robert Cihra, Caris & Co. 19.80 4.36
Shaw Wu, Kaufman Bros. 19.26 4.12
Chris Whitmore, Deutsche Bank 19.19 4.10
Ben Reitzes, Barclays Capital 19.18 3.91
Scott Craig, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch 19.16 4.11
Doug Reid, Stifel Nicholaus 19.11 4.15
Rajesh Ghai, Think Equity 19.08 4.06
Jeff Fidacaro, Susquehanna 19.05 4.07
Keith Bachman, BMO Capital 18.97 3.92
Ralph Schackart, William Blair 18.89 4.03
Matthew Hoffman, Cowen & Co. 18.81 4.05
T. Michael Walkley, Canaccord Genuity 18.76 4.02
Mark Moskowitz, J.P. Morgan 18.71 4.20
Alex Gauna, JMP Securities 18.70 4.20
Brian Marshall, Gleacher & Co. 18.54 4.05
Kathryn Huberty, Morgan Stanley 18.50 4.07
William Fearnley, Janney Capital 18.40 4.04
Nehal Chokshi, Technology Insights 18.38 4.12
Tavis McCourt, Morgan Keegan 18.32 4.03
Gene Munster, Piper Jaffray 18.00 3.72

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]