U.S. Markets close in 3 hrs 16 mins

Microsoft beats Wall Street targets on cloud services revenue

FILE PHOTO: An advertisement is played on a set of large screens at the Microsoft office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., on January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

By Salvador Rodriguez and Vibhuti Sharma

(Reuters) - Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) on Thursday posted quarterly profit and revenue that beat analysts' estimates, as more businesses signed up for its Azure cloud computing services and Office 365 productivity suite.

The company's flagship Azure cloud product recorded revenue growth of 89 percent in the fourth quarter ended June 30. Its shares rose nearly 4 percent in after-hours trading.

Much of Microsoft's recent growth has been fueled by its cloud computing business, which has benefited from companies rushing to shift their workloads to the cloud to cut data storage and software costs.

"The combination of the cloud, which is a megatrend that's going to last for years to come, and the execution, this is company that knows how to sell and be innovative - it's hard to argue with anything here," said Tom Taulli, InvestorPlace.com analyst.

Microsoft shares have risen 180 percent since Satya Nadella took over as chief executive in 2014, refocusing the company on cloud computing rather than PC software. Its market cap edged above $800 billion for the first time earlier this month.

Azure has a 16 percent share of the global cloud infrastructure market, making it the second-biggest provider of cloud services after Amazon.com Inc's (AMZN.O) Amazon Web Services, according to April estimates by research firm Canalys.

Revenue at Microsoft's productivity and business processes unit, which includes Office 365, rose 13.1 percent to $9.67 billion, topping analysts' average expectation of $9.65 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

"This was another gem of a quarter from Microsoft as Nadella's cloud vision is coming to fruit on the heels of massive Azure growth and secular tailwinds," said Daniel Ives at research firm GBH Insights.

Revenue for the company's LinkedIn business and job network grew 37 percent from the year-ago quarter, while its Dynamics 365 online business application suite posted a 61 percent increase.

The combination of those two services highlights Microsoft's rise as an alternative to Salesforce.com Inc (CRM.N), which dominates the customer relationship management market, said Johnny Won, founder of Hyperstop, a tech consultancy firm.

"It seems like this is actually a formidable threat to Salesforce," Won said.

Overall, the Redmond, Washington-based software maker's revenue rose 17.5 percent to $30.09 billion, above expectations of $29.21 billion.

Net income rose to $8.87 billion, or $1.14 per share, from $8.07 billion, or $1.03 per share, in the year-ago fourth quarter. https://bit.ly/2uOF9W1

Excluding certain items, Microsoft earned $1.13 per share, while analysts had expected $1.08.


(Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru and Salvador Rodriguez in San Francisco; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Richard Chang)