Microsoft's Beautiful Business Record

Next let's move on to examining Microsoft's business by looking at its earnings per share growth since 1999. The orange line on the following graph plots Microsoft's earnings per share and represents a fair value PE ratio of 15.

The green shaded area represents total earnings. Looking to the green shaded rectangle in the Fast Facts to the right of the graph, we discover that Microsoft's earnings growth averaged 12.5% per annum, which incidentally is almost exactly two times the growth rate of the S&P 500.

Clearly, Microsoft's business performed exceptionally well since calendar year 1999, producing a superior and impressive long-term record of consistent above-average growth.

At this point, we should be asking the questions: How and why is the stock of such a great business has performed so badly?

My next graph adds dividends, which are represented by the light blue-shaded area. Although dividends are paid out of earnings, they are stacked on top of the orange line for visual perspective, and because they represent cash payments to shareholders. Now we have a visual depiction of the $3.00 special dividend paid in 2005. As you can see, Microsoft's regular dividends have grown steadily, and the 25% payout ratio is low.

This next graph overlays monthly closing stock prices in order to reveal the relationship between earnings and stock price over time. The orange line on the graph represents Microsoft's calculated True Worth, based on a widely accepted formula utilizing a DCF methodology.

Therefore, I contend that this graph reveals why Microsoft's stock has been such a poor performer. The reader should note that calendar years 1999 and 2000 were a time referred to as the infamous technology bubble, also known as the irrational exuberant period.

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