Q3 FY08 Earnings
I may or may not be covering this in detail today. To be honest, I'm close to packing it in wrt both MSFT and this blog. However, for those who wandered over here looking for the usual review, expectations are as follows:
The Street is looking for revenue of $14.5 billion and EPS of 44 cents. The company’s guidance was for revenue of $14.3 billion to $14.6 billion, with EPS of 43-45 cents.
With the YHOO thing still hanging over us, reaction to strong results are likely to be muted. And with GOOG and AAPL having already posted blowout results, anything from MSFT will seem average by comparison - which of course it is. On the other hand, negative results and/or weak guidance will be punished severely. Personally, I expect a strong report given higher than expected PC sales. However, I think guidance will be on the modest side given the declining macro economic picture and MSFT's typical conservatism. So tomorrow, the stock may be $1 or so higher best case, or $1-$2 lower worst case. Then we'll drift along some more until the YHOO thing finally gets resolved. If that's a merger, then the stock will take a hit and be dead money for two more years. And if it's walk away, then maybe the stock goes up $2-$3 until worries about how MSFT can curb GOOG's growth without YHOO take over and drive the price back down $2-$3. In other words, yawn.
On first blush it's not great and the stock is off 5% in the after hours session presently. At $14.45 billion, revenue is in the middle (exactly) of company guidance but light versus consensus. Considering how much further the US$ fell during the Q, that's particularly weak. EPS at .47 looks to be a solid beat, but there's some noise there wrt charges and I haven't detailed what was in/out yet. The item that jumps out is that expenses came in very hot. In particular "Cost of revenue" and "General and administrative". As a result, net income fell off a cliff. Again, I haven't detailed what's behind that yet, although a billion of it looks to be accounting for the EC fine. There's a note in the .ppt that says "Operating income" would have been $5.8 billion ex the fine, which would have exceeded company guidance of $5.6-$5.7 billion. Not that investors apparently care about the distinction.
Results by segment are as follows (technology guarantee impact making compares difficult):
Again looking quickly, Client sucked. And it seems to be not just the technology guarantee impact but also anemic OEM growth. The .ppt brags about the same 140M Vista licenses sold that we've been hearing about for a while now. So clearly there's been no acceleration wrt installed base upgrades either. Surprise! Not. MBD was also weak. I haven't delved further to figure out why. Server put in a strong showing as per usual. Kudos to that group at least. And E&D managed to eke out a paper profit (as long as you ignore intra-group transfers and the convenient "Corporate-level activity" bucket).
Guidance for Q4 is $15.5-$15.8 billion. The street was expecting $15.6 billion, so nothing too negative there. But EPS guidance is .45 -.48, whereas consensus was .48. So that's a guide down.
Of course, since next fiscal provides lots of time for things to change, to beg forgiveness, or for a YHOO merger to screw up compares enough to make burying a subsequent miss easy, and since having the stock drop too far currently isn't ideal given the pending YHOO merger, the company is able to look past Q4's set back and be unreservedly bullish for FY09:
- Revenue is expected to be in the range of $66.9 billion to $68.0 billion.
- Operating income is expected to be in the range of $26.7 billion to $27.4 billion.
- Diluted earnings per share are expected to be in the range of $2.13 to $2.19.
Wall Street analysts were forecasting EPS of $2.00 to $2.20 per share ($2.10 consensus), on revenue of $66.5 billion.
Buybacks during the quarter were unsurprisingly light at around $1 billion.
Sample media reaction:
- Microsoft's Revenue, 4Q Outlook Disappoint the Street
- Microsoft quarter view disappoints, bullish on '09
- LIVE ANALYSIS: Microsoft FQ3 Weaker Than Expected
Tracy notes that revenues from the Client division - the Windows business - had been expected to be down 18%-20% year over year, but actually fell 24%. He notes that Microsoft believes PC market growth was 8%-10% in the quarter, below the company’s previous estimate of 9%-11%. I would note here that other estimates of Q1 PC unit growth are higher: IDC says units grew 12.3%; Gartner says growth was 14.6%.
Minimum 20% miss versus forecast on a business this large? Not good. Who is getting fired? Kidding, we know no one will be. And who to believe wrt actual PC shipments? FWIW, I'm going with IDC and guessing a mix shift back to lower priced/lower margin XP and towards Linux in UMPCs and emerging markets is what is really responsible for the miss - which is even more concerning.
Tracy notes that the Microsoft Business Division’s revenues came in about $20 million to $30 million below expectations. He says the server and online businesses were in line with expectations. He says the entertainment and devices segment was ahead of plan, driven by strong Xbox 360 sales
You know it's a weak report overall when MSFT is reduced to playing up E&D's results.
Thank God for the last minute "surge" today, or the maximum $2 downside target that I postulated yesterday would have been exceeded on a closing basis. As it was, the stock was down more than $2 during the session. But it managed to end the day down a mere $1.97. Hopefully you appreciate the psychologically important distinction there, because I'll bet dollars to donuts a bunch more of our cash got spent in order to ensure that result. So, let's call it $18 billion of shareholder wealth destruction. Not bad for one day's work.
Having listened again to the fifty something minute excuse-fest that passed for a conference call last night, I can see why investors were dumping. If I had a dollar for every "woulda, coulda, shoulda" that was uttered, I'd be rich today instead of just poorer like most shareholders. Liddell's attempt to blame the Client shortfall in part on some mysterious piracy problem with a Chinese distributor and their "market dynamics" (which when coupled with the recent MSFT/Novell/China announcement is probably really about Linux competition), while comically maintaining that there is no Vista problem (even though the "sold" counter is moving slower than Zimbabwe's national election results), just shows how much contempt this management team has for the truth and the intelligence of its shareholders. Most companies bend the truth. That's expected. But MSFT's current management team just dispense with it entirely.
I especially got a kick out of their self-congratulations for the wise "investments" made and diversification achieved, how good they feel about the way the business is performing, and how much they will have increased EPS by - assuming they make their targets - over the past three years or so (which conveniently have now morphed from the biggest product lineup in company history being well received by customers as recently as last Q, to "one of the most difficult economic environments we've seen". Huh?). Pop quiz: What has all this supposed goodness meant for the people they have a fiduciary obligation to - shareholders? Answer: Effectively squat. Had you simply invested in the indexes over the same period, you would have had a better return with much less volatility. Extending that to 5 years, you would have outperformed MSFT by approximately 34% to 50% ex-dividends (depending on whether you chose the S&P or the NASDAQ). And let's not even bother comparing returns to companies that have actually performed for shareholders like AAPL, GOOG, HPQ, or even IBM of all people.
I wonder if I'm unique among shareholders in that I'm only ever half-listening to their tired self-serving bullshit. Meanwhile, a virtual ticker tape of MSFT's moribund stock price this decade is scrolling along in my mind, serving to negate much of what they're saying and underscoring just how out of touch with reality they are. Based on market reaction today, it looks like at least some others reached similar conclusions.
Anyway, this piece includes analysts reactions following last night's results:
- Microsoft Shares Stumble; Earnings A Mix Bag; Xbox Strong, But Windows Disappoints; Waiting For Yahoo
There's also some additional color on the financial sinkhole that is Online in this piece:
Again, Ballmer must have a really low opinion of the average investor's IQ if he thinks we can review data like this and still believe him that MSFT has a "solid" strategy here with or without YHOO. They don't. They have another financial clusterfuck that rivals Xbox, and investors are more than smart enough to see that - which partially explains the stock action.