Microsoft Inc. (MSFT) - Get Report shares traded higher Thursday after the world's biggest tech company posted stronger-than-expected first quarter earnings late last night, although gains were capped by slowing growth from its Azure cloud business.
Microsoft said earnings for the three months ending in September, the company's fiscal first quarter, came in at $1.38 per shares, up 17.4% from the same period last year and well ahead of the Street consensus forecast of $1.24. Group revenues, Microsoft said, rose 14% to $33.1 billion, topping analysts' estimates of a $32.24 billion tally.
Revenue growth from Azure, however, slowed to 59% over the period, a torrid pace but down from the 76% rate it had seen last year. Still, revenues from Microsoft's workhouse 'intelligent cloud' division rose 27% to $10.8 billion, a figure the company expects to improve to between $11.24 billion and $11.45 billion in the current quarter.
"Every Fortune 500 customer today is on a cloud migration journey, and we are making it faster and easier," CEO Satya Nadella told investors on a conference call late Wednesday. "The quintessential characteristic of every application going forward will be AI. And we have the most comprehensive portfolio of AI tools, infrastructure and services. Azure AI now has more than 20,000 customers, and more than 85% of the Fortune 100 companies are using Azure AI in the last 12 months."
Microsoft shares were marked 1.88% higher in early Thursday trading to change hands at $139.75 each, a move that would bump the stock into a year-to-date gain of around 37.5% and a market value of just over $1.07 trillion.
Microsoft, which has a near 20% share of the global cloud infrastructure market, behind only that of Amazon Inc. (AMZN) - Get Report , said it sees "double digit revenue and operating income growth, driven by continued momentum in our commercial business" for the 2020 fiscal year, with a slight improvement in operating margins.
"It is probably unfair to expect one company to halt a sector's valuation correction that was overdue but has probably gone far enough. But if fundamental execution and outlook commentary is enough to slow the sector's fourth 30%+ valuation blowdown since 2013, this was what the doctor ordered," said Canaccord Genuity analyst Richard Davis, who carries a buy rating on the stock with a $155 price target.