Microsoft beats sales estimates as Azure growth ticks upward

Microsoft beats sales estimates as Azure growth ticks upward

The Microsoft store is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York City
The Microsoft store is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, on Jun 26, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

NEW YORK: Microsoft beat Wall Street estimates for quarterly revenue and profit on Tuesday, powered by a slight uptick in growth in its flagship cloud computing business as the software maker continued to benefit from a global shift to working from home and online learning.

The pandemic has accelerated a move already under way toward cloud-based computing, helping companies such as Microsoft, Amazon.com's cloud unit and Alphabet's Google Cloud. For Microsoft, it has also boosted demand for its Windows operating systems for laptops and its Xbox gaming services as families work, learn and play from home, leading to profit that was about 30 per cent above expectations.

"It was another healthy quarter, with continued demand for remote offerings continuing to power results," Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood told Reuters in an interview.

Revenue growth for Azure, the company's flagship cloud computing business, was 48 per cent, up from 47 per cent in the previous quarter and ahead of Wall Street estimates of 43.45 per cent, according to consensus data from Visible Alpha. Hood said the rise was driven by "an increase in larger, long-term Azure contracts".

Microsoft has shifted to selling many of its products via recurring subscriptions, which investors like because it generates stable revenue flows. The value of Microsoft's future recurring revenue contracts with big business customers was flat from the previous quarter and its proportion of one-time deals rose slightly after two quarters of growth.

Microsoft bundles together several sets of software and services such as Office and Azure into a "commercial cloud" metric that investors watch closely to gauge the company's progress in selling to large businesses. Microsoft's commercial cloud gross margins - a measure of the profitability of its sales to large businesses - was 71 per cent per cent compared with 66 per cent a year earlier.

Hood said some of the rise was explained by a change in accounting rules for Microsoft's servers, but the better margins were also driven by sales of lucrative software such as Dynamics 365, which competes with Salesforce.com.

"That Dynamics 365 revenue growth of 38 per cent was better than we thought and quite good," Hood told Reuters.

Microsoft said 93 per cent of commercial cloud products were sold as subscriptions, compared with 94 per cent the quarter before. The company's remaining performance obligations - a measure of how much revenue has been booked for the future in sales contracts but not yet formally recognised as revenue - stayed flat at US$107 billion in the fiscal first quarter but was up from US$86 billion a year prior.

Microsoft said revenue in its "Intelligent Cloud" segment rose 20 per cent to US$13 billion in the first quarter, with 48 per cent growth in Azure. Analysts had expected revenue of $12.7 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Revenue from its personal computing division, which includes Windows software and Xbox gaming consoles, rose 6 per cent to US$11.8 billion.

The company's revenue rose 12 per cent to US$37.2 billion in the quarter ended Sep 30, beating analysts' estimates of US$35.72 billion.

"Microsoft’s strong earnings beat shows its market share in cloud computing is expanding while its legacy software products such as Windows and Office are in great demand during the pandemic," said Haris Anwar, senior analyst at Investing.com.

Net income rose to US$13.89 billion, or US$1.82 per share, from US$10.68 billion, or US$1.38 per share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected a profit of US$1.54 per share.

Microsoft shares were down 0.2 per cent at US$212.77 in after-hours trading after the results, although trading is often relatively muted until after Microsoft executives give financial guidance. The company will hold a conference call later on Tuesday.

Source: Reuters

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