Microsoft Corp. easily topped earnings and sales expectations in a Tuesday report, as all three of its core segments grew strongly amid demand for cloud services and videogames during the COVID-19 pandemic, but its forecast did not live up to estimates.
Microsoft MSFT, +1.50% reported fiscal first-quarter earnings Tuesday of $13.9 billion, or $1.82 a share, up from $1.38 a share a year ago. Revenue reached $37.2 billion, up from $33.06 billion a year ago. Analysts on average expected earnings of $1.54 a share on sales of $35.76 billion, according to FactSet.
Microsoft underwhelmed with its forecast for the fiscal second quarter, when it will launch the new Xbox consoles, however. Microsoft guided for revenue of $39.5 billion to $40.4 billion in the quarter, which would be a gain from $36.9 billion in the 2019 holiday period, but came in lower than analysts’ average estimate of $40.5 billion, according to FactSet.
Microsoft stock rose about 1% in after-hours trading immediately following the release of the results, but then fell to a slight decline ahead of the conference call. After the forecast was shared, shares fell to a decline of more than 1% in the extended session, after closing with a 1.5% gain at $213.25. Shares have gained 35.3% so far this year, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.80%, which counts Microsoft as a component, has declined 1.2%.
Much of the excitement about Microsoft has focused on its cloud ambitions and gains in recent years, as its Azure cloud-computing offering has grown into a legitimate challenger to Amazon.com Inc.’s AMZN, +2.47% Amazon Web Services. Microsoft reported first-quarter revenue in its “Intelligent Cloud” segment — which includes Azure as well as server sales and other business — of $12.99 billion, up from $10.85 billion a year ago and topping the average analyst estimate of $12.73 billion.
“Demand for our cloud offerings drove a strong start to the fiscal year with our commercial cloud revenue generating $15.2 billion, up 31% year-over-year,” Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said in Tuesday’s news release.
Microsoft said that Azure revenue increased 48%, the only breakout information the company provides on that key product even though main competitors Amazon and Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL, +0.92% GOOG, +0.86% Google report their cloud-computing revenue totals. Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said ahead of the report he expected Azure to post gains “in the 50% range,” and predicted a “beat and raise” quarter for Microsoft.
“In many cases we are seeing enterprises accelerate their digital transformation and cloud strategy with Microsoft by 6 to 12 months as the prospects of a heavy remote workforce for the foreseeable future now looks in the cards with this COVID-19 backdrop,” Ives wrote last week. “While we have seen the momentum of this backdrop in the last few quarters, we believe deal flow looks strong heading into FY21 as we estimate that Microsoft is only ~35% through penetrating its unparalleled installed base on the cloud transition.”
While investors have focused on cloud and other enterprise products for Microsoft, consumers are coming back into view with this report. The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a surge in personal-computer sales in recent months, and Microsoft will launch the newest Xbox videogame console next month.
Microsoft reported sales of $11.85 billion in the “More Personal Computing” segment, which includes PC and Xbox revenue. That is up from $11.13 billion in the same period a year ago, and ahead of the average analyst estimate of $11.18 billion.
The company said that revenue from Xbox content and services jumped 30% from last year during the quarter, after sales were flat a year ago by the same measure. Videogames have been growing strongly during the pandemic, with Microsoft reporting a 65% increase in Xbox-related revenue last quarter, and the release of the new Xbox is expected to juice that growth even more.
Expectations for holiday sales of the new Xbox Series X and Series S consoles were baked into Microsoft’s guidance for the current quarter, which was revealed in a conference call Tuesday afternoon. The revenue in Xbox’s segment is expected to be $13.2 billion to $13.6 billion, after $13.2 billion was recorded in the holiday quarter a year ago. Analysts on average expected $14 billion in fiscal second-quarter “More Personal Computing” revenue heading into the report, according to FactSet.
“Growth will be materially impacted by our lower mix of multiyear agreements that carry higher in-quarter revenue recognition, primarily due to the declining expiry base and a large deal in the prior year,” Hood explained in revealing the guidance for More Personal Computing.
“In gaming, we expect revenue growth in the high 20% range,” she continued. “We expect very strong demand following the launch of our next-generation Xbox Series X and S consoles.”
Microsoft’s other segment — “Productivity and Business Processes,” which comprises cloud-software offerings such as its Office suite and LinkedIn — reported revenue of $12.32 billion. That is up from $11.08 billion a year ago and beats the average analyst estimate of $11.79 billion, according to FactSet.