Appearing to partly stem the flow of red ink, Apple next week is expected to post a relatively modest fourth-quarter loss of about $17.8 million, according to Wall Street analysts.
Some pundits even said they are prepared to see a small profit.
A consensus of 23 analyst estimates, compiled by First Call Corp. of Boston, predicted a loss of about $17.8 million, or 14 cents for each of Apple's 127.3 million outstanding shares.
The estimates for the quarter, which ended Sept. 29, ranged from a profit of $12.7 million to a loss of $42 million. For the 1997 fiscal year, Apple is expected to announce a loss of about $376.81 million; the loss in fiscal 1996 was $816 million, and the company posted a $25 million profit in the fourth quarter of 1996. Apple will announce the results Oct. 15.
The consensus estimate excluded any special charges; Apple is not expected to announce any.
Overall, analysts recommended that shareholders hold onto Apple stock. A First Call consensus rating put the company at 2.9 on a scale of 1 to 5, in which 1 is an aggressive buy, 5 an aggressive sell and 3 a hold.
Jim Poyner, an analyst with Oppenheimer & Co. of New York, said a loss must lead to further restructuring and job cuts. "They are chasing a perpetually falling bottom line," Poyner said.
But Barry Bosak, an analyst with Smith Barney Inc. of New York, said further restructuring would hurt the company, and he said that Steve Jobs, interim Apple CEO, will push to get sales off the ground. "Steve has been able to put his finger in the dike, so to speak, and generate a lot of positive publicity," Bosak said. "I'm quietly optimistic."
First Call said it expects that Apple will return to profitability in 1998. A consensus estimate predicted the company earning a profit of $45.8 million, or 36 cents a share, for the year.