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Microsoft’s quarterly earnings exceed Wall St expectations

by Jonathan Adams
Wall St

Microsoft’s Productivity and Business Processes unit, which includes its commercial and consumer Office 365 businesses and LinkedIn, grew 6% to $11.8 billion

Microsoft reported quarterly earnings on Wednesday that exceeded Wall Street’s expectations, as the still-raging coronavirus outbreak proved no match for the tech giant’s booming cloud computing business.

However, the company’s stock — one of a clutch of high-flying tech stocks that pushed Microsoft’s market cap well over $1 trillion — fell by nearly 3% in after-hours trading.

The story of Microsoft’s growth over the past several years has been its Intelligent Cloud business, which includes its powerful Azure platform. In fiscal Q4 2020, Microsoft reported $13.4 billion in revenue from Intelligent Cloud, a 17% increase over the same quarter last year.

The last five months have made it clear that tech intensity is the key to business resilience. Organizations that build their own digital capability will recover faster and emerge from this crisis stronger, said Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO.

The company doesn’t break out its Azure revenue, but reported 47% growth for the cloud platform.

Microsoft’s Productivity and Business Processes unit, which includes its commercial and consumer Office 365 businesses and LinkedIn, grew 6% to $11.8 billion.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Microsoft’s gaming business saw robust growth on work-from-home demand. The company saw growth of 1.3 billion, or 64%, with Xbox hardware revenue jumping 49%. Microsoft is set to launch a new console, the Xbox Series X, in November, which would normally mean slower sales of hardware at this point in the current Xbox One cycle.

While Microsoft’s growth has been impressive, BMO Capital Markets analyst Keith Bachman says the coming quarters will offer tough margin comparisons between fiscal year 2020 and fiscal year 2021.

According to Bachman, end-of-support for Microsoft’s Windows Server and Windows 7 helped push growth in the company’s Intelligent Cloud and More Personal Computing segments. That benefit, however, should drop off in fiscal Q4 2020.

Still, he says that Microsoft is well positioned for the next five years, despite trading at 1.15 times the S&P 500 based on free cash flow valuation.

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