Friday, July 23, 2010

Microsoft profit beats Street, stock unmoved

SEATTLE: Microsoft Corp easily beat Wall Street forecasts with a 48 percent rise in quarterly profit, but its shares were unmoved in the absence of any powerful new signs of a rebound in global tech spending.

The world's largest software company said business customers are continuing to come back to the market for new personal computers, most of which run on Microsoft's software, but it failed to match chipmaker Intel Corp's strongly optimistic tone last week.

"It's a great quarter -- but does that matter?" said Colin Gillis, analyst at BGC Partners. "We all knew the business refresh cycle was in place. This is the dilemma for Microsoft -- how do they get the stock moving again?"

Microsoft on Thursday, July 22 reported fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $4.52 billion, or 51 cents per share, up from $3.04 billion, or 34 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

That beat analysts' average expectation of 46 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales rose 22 percent to $16.04 billion, beating analysts' $15.27 billion estimate, reflecting the continuing recovery in tech spending this year. Microsoft said it had sold 175 million licenses for its new Windows 7 operating system since its launch last year.

Global PC sales surged 22.4 percent last quarter, industry tracker IDC said this week, helped by strong demand from businesses, signaling a strong outlook for Microsoft.

"We still believe in the business PC refresh, which is the single biggest thing ongoing throughout this year," Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein said in a telephone interview.

He said the new Office 2010 suite of applications, launched earlier this year, was off to a strong start but it was too early to judge the financial impact. He said the current "back to school" quarter should show how well sales are faring.

Microsoft shares were little changed at $25.80 after closing at $25.84 on Nasdaq.

The stock -- which is still hovering around the same level it was five years ago -- is down 15 percent this year, compared with a 1 percent fall in the Nasdaq composite index. - Reuters

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