Much of the focus has been on Amazon, Facebook and Google in recent weeks, obscuring the fact that Microsoft is in fact the largest tech company and the largest publicly traded company, with a market capitalization if $1+ trillion. Its quiet success continued with the company’s latest quarterly report indicating sales grew 12 percent to $33.7 billion. The company also enjoyed $13.2 billion in profits in the same quarter, in part due to $2.6 billion in one-time tax benefits and inked its “largest commercial deal ever” with AT&T.
The New York Times reports that, according to FactSet, “the results beat analyst forecasts, which predicted the company would have $32.8 billion in sales and $9.4 billion in profit.” Company shares also rose 2+ percent in after-hours trading. NYT notes, “the strong results indicate Microsoft is not seeing large companies shy away from investing in new technology out of concern for a downturn or trade war.”
At the heart of its robust performance is Microsoft’s bet on companies moving into the cloud. In the most recent quarter, Microsoft Azure grew 68 percent compared with the previous year. For the first time, Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud, which includes Azure, “became the company’s largest revenue generator.”
UBS analyst Jennifer Lowe said, “that pace of growth, at that scale, is pretty unprecedented.” She added that, although Amazon (whose cloud business had about $28 billion in sales) is “the provider of choice for digitally native companies like Netflix … Microsoft has found traction with traditional large corporations and organizations.”
Microsoft takes the tack of encouraging its corporate clients to “employ cloud computing to transform how they do business using tools like artificial intelligence, and to connect workers on retail sales floors and assembly lines to corporate technology,” not simply use the cloud to store data.
In the traditional model, said Becker Capital portfolio manager Sid Parakh, “every time you wanted to do something new, you had to buy new hardware.” “With cloud, you have as many capabilities as you want overnight,” he added.
Gaming is Microsoft’s “most interesting part of its consumer business.” The company’s new Xbox gaming console won’t debut until the 2020 holiday season, but, “in the long term, Microsoft is working to become a hub for players to stream games live from the cloud … [even] enter[ing] a partnership with Sony, which makes a competing console, under which the companies will work on online entertainment together.”
Although gaming revenue declined 8 percent this quarter, “executives expressed optimism for the coming fiscal year, saying the company once again expects double-digit growth in sales.”