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Microsoft earnings again beat estimates

Apr 15, 20033 mins

Microsoft on Tuesday again beat analyst expectations, a sagging technology industry and a struggling economy by posting a 2% increase in profit for its fiscal third quarter.

The company posted a net profit of $2.79 billion, or 26 cents per share, for its fiscal third quarter, which ended March 31. Analysts had forecast a profit of 24 cents per share. The third-quarter profit compares to $2.74 billion, or 25 cents per share, a year earlier.

Microsoft’s revenue was $7.84 billion compared to $7.25 billion a year earlier, an 8% increase. Analysts had projected $7.75 billion. Operating income was up 13% to $3.72 billion, compared to $3.30 billion a year earlier.

The software giant thumped its own and forecasters’ earnings projections in January when it posted record revenue for its fiscal second quarter.

For its fiscal third quarter, the company cited revenue growth in both its server platform and information worker divisions as reasons for its gains. It also said 26% of its revenue was gained from unearned revenue, which is software that has yet to be delivered including that licensed through Microsoft’s Licensing 6.0 program. Unearned revenue was 22% in the second quarter and 23% in the first quarter.

Server Platforms revenue was up 21% compared to the same quarter last year. Microsoft cited strong performances from Windows 2000, SQL Server 2000 and Microsoft Exchange, which the company said now has 115 million users worldwide.

SQL Server 2000 showed revenue growth of nearly 40%, which was fueled by demand for the Enterprise Edition of the database, Microsoft said.

The company reported that revenue from its information worker division was up 9% compared to the same period last year, citing demand for Office XP as the driver.

 “Our server products have been gaining momentum despite the tough business environment,” said John Connors, Microsoft CFO. He said Windows Server 2003, which will launch next week, and Exchange Server 2003, expected to ship in June, should help fuel future growth.

“These are key assets in driving the company growth for the 2004 fiscal year and beyond,” he said.

But Connors did caution that Microsoft was not planning for either a significant increase or decrease in demand for information technology. He said there were several one-time growth items in fiscal 2003 that likely would not continue in fiscal 2004.

“We will quite certainly not benefit from a significant change in our licensing programs as we did in this fiscal year with the transition to licensing 6.0,” said Connors said.

Microsoft’s Licensing 6.0 program began officially last year after two delays fostered by criticism from customers. A surge in sign-ups once Licensing 6.0 got rolling contributed to a swell in unearned revenue that peaked at $9.13 billion in the first quarter of fiscal 2003, nearly a $3.5 billion jump compared to the same quarter the previous year.

Microsoft projected that the last quarter of its fiscal year, which ends June 30, would produce revenues of nearly $7.9 billion. Fiscal year revenue is projected at nearly $33.8 billion compared to $28.3 billion in fiscal 2002.