Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday reported fiscal second-quarter revenue and profit that beat Wall Street expectations, a sign that its Azure cloud computing services continues to grow amid a pitched battle with Amazon.com Inc.’s cloud unit.
Microsoft’s revenue and profit for the quarter ended in December were US$36.9 billion and $1.51 per share, compared with analyst estimates of US$35.7 billion and $1.32 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Sales were powered by the company’s cloud segment and strong sales of its Windows operating system as corporate customers upgraded machines ahead of the end of support for Windows 7.
Microsoft said Azure, its primary competitor to Amazon’s cloud, grew 62 per cent in the quarter, down from a 76 per cent revenue growth rate the year before but up from 59 per cent in the fiscal first quarter.
Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said increased consumption of Azure services, which include offerings such as computing power to run applications and data storage services, drove the increased revenue growth.
“We did have good usage, which matters a ton to that number,” Hood told Reuters in an interview. “The core thing that we focused on — which is consumption growth — was quite good.”
Microsoft said revenue for what it calls its “commercial cloud” — a combination of Azure and the cloud-based versions of software such as Office — reached US$12.5 billion, up from US$9 billion the year before.
Commercial cloud gross profit margins – a key measure of cloud profitability that Microsoft has told investors it expects to improve – were 67 per cent, versus 62 per cent the year before.
Microsoft shares rose 2.8 per cent to US$172.82 in after-hours trading.
The core thing that we focused on — which is consumption growth — was quite good
Amy Hood, CFO, Microsoft
Hood said the company was working to improve margins on its core Azure services, which rely on data centres that can cost billions of dollars to build. She cited “hardware improvements and taking advantage of those hardware improvements. There’s also of course improvements we have in the efficiency of our supply chain through to having data centres come up to speed.”
Chief Executive Satya Nadella has re-centred Microsoft around cloud computing, renting out its computing power and technology to large businesses.
Microsoft has focused on so-called hybrid cloud computing – in which a business can use a mix of Microsoft’s data centres and its own – as well as on delivering its longstanding productivity programs such as Office via the cloud.
The shift to the cloud has propelled shares in the world’s largest software company up more than 50 per cent in the past year, as it gains ground against market leader Amazon and also parries the threats to its classic software programs from newer entrants, such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
In 2019, Microsoft had 22 per cent share of the cloud computing infrastructure market, compared with 45 per cent at Amazon and 5 per cent from Google, according to data from Forrester Research.
The company’s Intelligent Cloud unit, which includes Azure, reported revenue that rose 27 per cent to US$11.9 billion in the quarter, versus expectations of US$11.4 billion. Its Productivity and Business Process unit, which contains the LinkedIn social network, reported US$11.8 billion in revenue compared with estimates of US$11.4 billion.
Revenue in the unit that contains Windows was US$13.2 billion, compared to estimates of US$12.8 billion. Over the past year, Windows sales had been hampered by shortages of PC chips from Intel Corp., but the chipmaker said last week it had alleviated most of those supply concerns.
“Chip supply came in better than we had anticipated going into the quarter,” Microsoft’s Hood said. “And so when that happens, because demand is still quite strong, all of that (chip supply) certainly got put to use” by PC makers.