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Continuing fallout from Nokia, slow PC sales, ding Microsoft

July 21, 2015, 10:52 PM UTC
Key Speakers At The Microsoft Build Developer 2015 Conference
Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., speaks during a keynote session at the Microsoft Developers Build Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, April 29, 2015. Microsoft Corp. and Adobe Systems Inc. are making it easier for their customers to share data, as they and other software makers expand their product offerings to include marketing tools and technologies. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg/Getty Images

Putting aside the continuing reverberations from its $7.2 billion buyout of Nokia and the related $3.2 billion loss it just posted, Microsoft accentuated the positive on the company’s fourth quarter earnings call Tuesday.

For one thing, Microsoft(MSFT) chief executive officer Satya Nadella promised that the company’s Bing search business will “transition to profitability” in the current fiscal year. Bing, which competes with market-leader Google(GOOG) search, has been a controversial business for Microsoft which has resisted analyst calls to sell it off or kill it.

But Microsoft stuck to its guns, noting that Bing technology brings important insights that can be applied to other businesses. The company maintains that Bing holds about 20% of the searches in the U.S.

Nadella also expressed hope that Windows 10, “just days away” from its official July 29 launch, “will return Windows to growth.” The goal, reiterated on the call, is for the new operating system to run 10 billion devices by 2018. For the quarter ending June 30, Windows volume licensing revenue was off 2% year over year; a reminder that for all its talk of cloud services and mobility, Microsoft, like Intel(INTC), remains somewhat hardwired to the overall PC and laptop market. Which, in case you hadn’t noticed, is pretty sickly.

As for Azure, the company’s linchpin public cloud, and its other commercial cloud products like Office 365 and Dynamics CRM, the whole kit-and-caboodle is now allegedly on an $8 billion annual run rate. Nadella claimed the company is selling 1 million new consumer Office 365 subscriptions per month. He and chief financial officer Amy Hood also said the company remains on track to meet a previously stated goal to achieve a $20 billion run rate in that business by 2018.

Nadella said that the combined Dynamics CRM and ERP products already constitute a $2.5 billion business. Asked if Dynamics CRM can compete with a huge incumbent (presumably market leader Salesforce (CRM) ), Nadella said the opportunity is huge in a market that, below the biggest enterprise accounts, is very fragmented. Microsoft bought FieldOne last week to bolster its field sales efforts there.

Overall, however, it was hard to get away from the toll Nokia has taken. Microsoft had pre-announced a $750 million charge to cover the cost of 7,800 Nokia-related layoffs as well as a $7.6 billion write down of the deal based on revised expectations for that mobile business going forward.

Accordingly, the software giant posted the aforementioned $3.2 billion loss (or 40 cents per share) compared to last year’s earnings of $4.61 billion, or 55 cents per share. Excluding the charge, Microsoft claimed an adjusted earnings per share of 62 cents, which came in above consensus of estimates of 56 cents.

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