Microsoft blows past earnings estimates as cloud growth comes in hot

Microsoft Corp. rode better-than-expected growth in its Azure cloud-computing unit to sizable revenue and earnings beats Tuesday, and the company said that it expects “increasing contribution” from artificial intelligence in that part of the business going forward.

Revenue for Azure and other cloud services was up 29%, or 28% in constant currency, in the fiscal first quarter. Microsoft’s

forecast had been for 25% to 26% constant-currency Azure revenue growth, while the company posted 27% constant-currency growth on the metric in the June period. The FactSet consensus called for 25.6% growth in constant currency.

Microsoft is targeting 26% to 27% constant-currency Azure revenue growth for its fiscal second quarter, and Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said on the earnings call that she expected “roughly stable” growth in the second half relative to the current quarter, “assuming the optimization and new workload trends continue and with the growing contribution from AI.”

“Despite a precarious economic environment, Microsoft’s results show how AI continues to drive cloud computing growth and how there’s still legs left in this business,” Maribel Lopez, a tech industry analyst and founder of Lopez Research, told MarketWatch.

Microsoft’s cloud-computing unit, dubbed Intelligent Cloud, saw a 19% bump in revenue to $24.3 billion during the latest quarter. Analysts were looking for $23.5 billion.

“While the focus now shifts to the drivers behind these results, including whether or not we are past the Azure ‘bottom’ or whether there were one-time items that resulted in the beat, we believe that the narrative gets even stronger into the rest of FY24 as some optical headwinds reverse and [comparisons] soften, and Microsoft’s position in the enterprise market continues to get stronger as customers look to consolidate spending,” Evercore ISI analyst Kirk Materne wrote in a note to clients.

Overall revenue rose to $56.5 billion from $50.1 billion a year before, while analysts were modeling $54.5 billion. The 12% growth on a constant-currency basis prompted Jefferies analyst Brent Thill to title his note to clients: “Double Digit Growth Without AI? Stay Long.”

The company logged September-quarter net income of $22.3 billion, or $2.99 a share, whereas it earned $17.6 billion, or $2.35 a share, in the year-prior period. Analysts tracked by FactSet were expecting $2.65 in earnings per share.

Microsoft recorded $18.6 billion in revenue for its productivity and business processes unit, up 13% from a year earlier, or up 12% on a constant-currency. That segment of the business includes LinkedIn and Office. Analysts had been looking for $18.2 billion in segment revenue.

Revenue for Microsoft’s More Personal Computing segment, which houses Windows and Xbox content and services, rose 3% to $13.7 billion and was up 2% on a constant-currency basis. The FactSet consensus called for $12.9 billion.

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