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Apple may launch Intel laptops soon, analyst says

Citigroup analyst raises target on Mac maker's stock, predicts debut of Intel-based notebook in January.

Apple Computer could introduce its first laptop computers based on Intel chips as early as January, which, together with robust sales of video iPods, should drive earnings higher, Citigroup said Wednesday.

Citigroup analyst Richard Gardner raised his target on the computer maker's stock price to $71 from $51 and boosted his earnings forecasts for the next two years.

For the current quarter, Gardner raised his revenue estimate to $5.5 billion from $4.8 billion and his earnings-per share forecast to 60 cents from 47 cents.

He also raised his 2006 revenue forecast to $20.4 billion from $17.6 billion and his earnings estimate to $2.16 a share from $1.72.

"We are becoming more convinced that Apple will at Macworld San Francisco," Gardner said in a note to clients. That conference runs from Jan. 9 to 13.

Gardner said these product introductions would be sooner than expected, which should help minimize the risk that Apple would end up with a buildup of its current line of non-Intel laptops as customers anticipate the arrival of the new models.

For 2007, he expects revenue of $24.3 billion and per-share profit of $2.61, up from his previous forecasts of $19.6 billion and $1.93.

Story Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.