By keeping its head in the cloud, Microsoft makes it rain on shareholders

Thanks in part to its colossal cloud business, Microsoft earnings are drenching shareholders in dollars.

For the quarter ending March 31, 2018, the tech ringer from Redmond saw its revenue increase to $26.8 billion (up 16 percent) from $23.2 billion, with operating income up 23 percent to $8.3 billion, up from $6.7 billion.

Income was a whopping $7.4 billion (up from $5.5 billion) and diluted earnings per share were 95 cents versus analyst expectations of 85 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Despite the earnings beat, shares of the company stock fell as much as 1 percent in after-hours trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

Floating much of Microsoft’s success for the quarter was the continued strength of the company’s cloud business, which chief executive Satya Nadella singled out in a statement.

“Our results this quarter reflect the trust people and organizations are placing in the Microsoft Cloud,” Nadella said. “We are innovating across key growth categories of infrastructure, AI, productivity and business applications.”

The company also returned $6.3 billion to shareholders in dividends and share repurchases in the third quarter 2018, an increase of 37 percent.

The company notched wins across the board. In addition to the growth of its cloud business — led by Azure (which grew 93 percent) — Microsoft also recorded strong growth from LinkedIn, which saw revenue increase 37 percent to $1.3 billion and hardware revenue from the Surface increasing 32 percent.

Even the move of Microsoft office into a hosted business seems to have stanched the flow of bleeding from the company’s former cash cow. The company counts 135 million business users on Office 365, and 30.6 million consumer subscriptions for the service.

The Surface numbers are notable because it’s perhaps the first indication that its hardware successes aren’t necessarily limited to the Xbox (insert Zune joke here).

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