Apple is set to return a profit of 16 cents per share when it announces its fiscal fourth-quarter earnings on October 17, a report by a leading Wall Street data company predicts.

The report, published by Thomson Financial/First Call also says Apple's average revenue estimate will be $1.5 billion for the quarter.

The projections surprised many stock analysts, who took the suffering PC sector as a guide, and expected Apple to issue a warning for the quarter. Apple's window for issuing such a warning is now almost over.

Among companies who have been hit hard in the third calendar quarter is Hewlett-Packard, who announced a 14 per cent decrease in third-quarter revenues compared to the year-ago period.

Apple announced a $61 million profit for its third quarter 2001, or $0.17 per share.

Its chief financial officer, Fred Anderson, recently described the company as a "cash machine".