Microsoft profit up as demand for cloud service soars

Thu Jan 26, 2017 7:16pm EST
 
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By Narottam Medhora and Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) - Microsoft Corp reported a 3.6 percent rise in fiscal second-quarter profit on Thursday, helped by growth in its fast-growing cloud computing business, but it saw a slight decline in margins in the unit that includes its flagship cloud platform Azure.

Shares of the world's biggest software company were up about 1.1 percent in after-hours trading.

Since taking charge in 2014, Chief Executive Satya Nadella has steered the company toward cloud services and mobile applications and away from its slowing traditional software business.

Gross margins for Microsoft's so-called "commercial cloud" business, which includes Azure and versions of its online Office 365 product sold to businesses, were 48 percent, said Chris Suh, head of Microsoft's investor relations.

That is down from last quarter's 49 percent but up from 46 percent a year ago, Suh said. The figure is watched closely by investors as a sign of the actual profit made of Microsoft's cloud products, which the company does not publish.

The Azure platform competes with cloud infrastructure offerings from market leader Amazon.com Inc, Alphabet Inc's Google, IBM and Oracle Corp.

"We're not at Amazon's margin today," said Suh. "Their infrastructure business is much larger. They have the benefit of scale. We track more like what Amazon was when they were closer to our size."

On the company's earnings conference call, Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood fielded questions from analysts about Azure-specific gross margins. She did not disclose a number but said there was a "material improvement" since last quarter.   Continued...

 
A sign marks the Microsoft office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. January 25, 2017.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo