Microsoft's (MSFT - Get Report) shares are up 35% on the year, with strong financial reports, a market rally and a pretty healthy enterprise software spending environment having all done their parts to help.
That spells somewhat elevated expectations for the software giant, which now has a trillion dollar-plus market cap, heading into Thursday's earnings report. On average, analysts polled by FactSet expect June quarter (fiscal fourth quarter) revenue of $32.77 billion (up 9% annually) and GAAP EPS of $1.21 (up 7%).
Satya Nadella's firm shares quarterly sales guidance for its three reporting segments on its earnings call. The company's September quarter revenue consensus currently stands at $32 billion (up 10%).
TheStreet will be live-blogging Microsoft's results, which arrive after the bell on Thursday, along with an earnings call that starts at 5:30 P.M. Eastern Time; please check our home page then to join. In addition to Microsoft's results and quarterly guidance, here are some things for investors to keep an eye on.
1. Microsoft's Fiscal 2020 Outlook
Though Microsoft doesn't provide formal full-year guidance, it does at times use its earnings calls to provide commentary about its full-year expectations for individual businesses and/or the company overall. On the company's April 24th earnings call, CFO Amy Hood said Microsoft expects double-digit revenue and operating income growth in fiscal 2020 (it ends in June 2020), with operating margins remaining stable.
With fiscal 2019 now finished, Microsoft could -- as it did on its July 2018 earnings call -- use Thursday's call to provide comments about its full-year growth expectations for major businesses. It might also share its full-year operating expense and capex growth expectations.
2. Azure's Growth
Though its growth rate has slowed a bit in recent quarters, Microsoft's Azure cloud platform is still clearly gaining share in a public cloud services market that itself is seeing brisk growth. Azure revenue rose 73% annually during Microsoft's March quarter, after having grown 76% during the prior two quarters.
Microsoft doesn't break out Azure's revenue. However, it does break out revenue for its Intelligent Cloud segment, which has seen Azure become its primary growth driver. The consensus is for Intelligent Cloud revenue to be up 15% annually in the June quarter to $11.03 billion. Hood said on the April call that Microsoft expects continued strong growth for Azure's consumption-based services (for example, cloud computing and storage services), but moderating growth for "per-user" offerings such as Microsoft's enterprise mobility software.
3. Office and Dynamics Growth
Microsoft's Office commercial revenue rose 12% in the March quarter, thanks to both Office 365 adoption and an ongoing mix shift towards costlier enterprise Office 365 plans. Meanwhile, adoption of personal Office 365 plans helped Office's consumer revenue grow 8%, and growing uptake among small and mid-sized businesses for Microsoft's Dynamics 365 cloud business apps helped total Dynamics revenue grow 13%.
In April, Microsoft forecast its Office commercial revenue would be slightly down sequentially due to a greater mix of cloud billings relative to traditional software license sales. Dynamics revenue was forecast to once more grow at a double-digit clip.
4. Windows Growth
The March quarter was a pretty strong one for Microsoft's Windows cash cow. Windows OEM revenue (driven by license sales to PC OEMs) grew 9% annually, while Windows commercial revenue (driven by license sales to businesses) grew 18%, aided by a greater amount of revenue recognition for multi-year license deals.
Hood did caution that Microsoft expects Windows OEM revenue growth to slow to a level "roughly in line with the PC market" during the June quarter. However, the fact that PC sales appear to have been stronger than expected in Q2 -- the easing of Intel (INTC - Get Report) CPU shortages helped, as did business PC upgrades ahead of the end of Windows 7 support in January 2020 -- might bode well for the quarter's Windows growth.
5. LinkedIn's Momentum
LinkedIn topped Microsoft's expectations during the March quarter: Revenue rose 27% annually, aided by a 46% increase in Marketing Solutions (ad) revenue, and user sessions grew 24%. For the June quarter, Microsoft has forecast LinkedIn's revenue will grow by a low-20s percentage.
In May, LinkedIn acquired Drawbridge, a startup that provided machine learning-based tools for analyzing customer activity across devices, for a reported price of almost $300 million. At the time, LinkedIn said it plans to use Drawbridge's technology to strengthen its ad business.
6. 'Commercial Cloud' Gross Margin
Boosting Microsoft's bottom line in the March quarter: The gross margin (GM) for its "Commercial Cloud" operations, which include Azure, Dynamics 365 and commercial Office 365 plans, rose by 5 percentage points annually to 63%, driven by "significant improvement" in Azure's GM. Though still soundly below Microsoft's software license margins due to the costs involved with building and running a cloud infrastructure, Commercial Cloud GM has been steadily rising in recent quarters.
Microsoft forecast its Commercial Cloud GM would once more be up on an annual basis during the June quarter. The company once more expects to see "material improvement" in Azure's GM, but expects this to be partly offset by a revenue mix shift towards Azure's cloud infrastructure (IaaS) and developer platform (PaaS) services, which carry relatively low margins.
7. Stock Buybacks
Microsoft has been buying back shares like clockwork in recent quarters: The company spent $4.8 billion on common stock repurchases during the March quarter, $14.9 billion on them during the first 9 months of fiscal 2019. Though it's possible that the strong performance of Microsoft's shares led the company to slow its buyback pace in recent months, it's still pretty likely that more stock was repurchased during the June quarter.
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