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3 Key Predictions for Microsoft's Q3 Report

Ryan McQueeney

Investors are gearing up for a wild day on the market as some of the world’s biggest tech companies, including software giant Microsoft MSFT, are set to release earnings reports on Thursday. Microsoft will announce its third-quarter fiscal 2017 results, and the performance of its individual business segments will reveal a lot about the recent direction of the company.

Over the past several years, global demand for personal computers—and related software—has plummeted. This put Microsoft in a tricky situation; the company known for its innovative Windows operating system now needed to rebrand itself as a tech leader that could adapt to the times.

We saw this on some level when Microsoft released Windows 10. Instead of trying to sell its flagship software, as it has done with basically every other iteration, the company allowed existing users to upgrade for free—opting to monetize the program by selling additional applications and services.

We’ve also witnessed Microsoft’s evolution through the aggressive growth of its Azure division. Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing service that builds, deploys, and manages applications and web services through the company’s own network of data centers. Azure has been growing at nearly a triple-digit rate over the past year or so.

So what’s in store for Microsoft this quarter? Well, the Zacks Consensus Estimate currently calls for earnings of $0.69 per share—about a 12% improvement from the year-ago quarter. However, we have seen one negative estimate revision for this quarter’s earnings, bringing our consensus estimate down two cents from where it was 60 days ago. Nevertheless, our consensus revenue estimate of $23.55 billion would represent impressive growth of 14.7%.

Of course, earnings and revenue are just two of the many things investors will be looking at when Microsoft reports on Thursday. Check out these three additional things to expect.

These important stock drivers are from our exclusive non-financial metrics consensus estimate file. These estimates are updated daily and are based on the independent research of expert stock analysts. Learn more here>>>

1.       Intelligent Cloud growth will continue on the back of Azure

Our consensus estimate calls for Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud segment to swell 8.2% to $6.6 billion this quarter. This unit delivered a similar 8% growth rate last quarter, and it all appears to be stemming from the aggressive growth of Microsoft Azure. In fact, the Azure division posted growth of 93% last quarter. If Azure can continue this pace, investors should look for Intelligent Cloud to keep getting bigger.

 

2.       LinkedIn and cloud services will push Productivity & Business Processes higher

Thanks to the recent acquisition of LinkedIn, as well as the incredible growth of Office 365 and its associated cloud services, Microsoft’s Productivity & Business Processes unit is poised to swell. According to our most recent consensus estimate, this unit is expected to bring in $7.8 billion. That would represent 20% growth from the year-ago quarter—prior to the LinkedIn buyout—and 5.4% quarter-over-quarter growth.

 

3.       More Personal Computing’s slump isn’t over

Microsoft’s biggest unit, More Personal Computing, includes its hardware, search advertising, and Windows ventures. These have been the areas that Microsoft has struggled with recently, and those struggles are likely to continue. Our current consensus estimate calls for this segment to slip about 3% to $9.2 billion. If this unit can outperform, Microsoft investors would be ecstatic, but it might end up being the weakest point of its report.

 

Check back here for our latest analysis once Microsoft reports on Thursday! For now, listen to the latest episode of the Zacks Friday Finish Line podcast for some coverage of the earnings reports that have already come in:

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