Profiting from continued strength in the PC market, Microsoft Corp. on Thursday defied earnings misses by other software vendors and reported a 15 percent increase in revenue for the final quarter of its 2004 fiscal year.
The world's largest software vendor reported net income of $2.69 billion on revenue of $9.29 billion for the fourth quarter of its 2004 fiscal year, ended June 30. That compared to net income of $1.48 billion on revenue of $8.07 billion in the year-earlier period, the company said in a statement.
Microsoft's fourth-quarter revenue came in ahead of analyst expectations of $9 billion, according to a consensus estimate compiled by Thomson First Call.
Earnings per share were $0.25 for the quarter, compared to $0.14 per share a year earlier. This year's figure included a $0.05 per share charge for stock-based employee compensation and a $0.02 per share tax benefit. The figure from a year ago included a $0.04 per share stock-based compensation charge and a $0.05 per share charge for the settlement of an antitrust lawsuit with Time Warner Inc.
All of Microsoft's groups met or exceeded company expectations, Microsoft Chief Financial Officer John Connors said in a statement.
"All of our seven businesses are growing and in aggregate they generated revenue growth of $4.6 billion, or 14 percent, for the year," Connors said on a conference call after Microsoft announced its results.
"I think it is important to put that number into context. It is just a bit lower than growing a couple of Yahoos or two eBays. Both are fine companies; we grew nearly two new companies that size in (fiscal year 2004) revenue growth," he said.
Encouraged by its fourth quarter results, Microsoft raised its revenue guidance for its 2005 fiscal year to between $38.4 billion and $38.8 billion, but it lowered its earnings per share forecast to between $1.05 and $1.08, including a stock-based compensation expense of about $0.16.
The drop in the earnings forecast is a result of the plan Microsoft announced Tuesday to share its cash hoard with investors. It will spend as much as $75 billion to pay out dividends and buy back shares over the next four years.
In April, Microsoft predicted fiscal year 2005 revenue of between $37.8 billion and $38.2 billion and earnings per share of between $1.16 and $1.18, including a stock-based compensation expense of about $0.15.
Wall Street analysts polled by Thomson First Call had pegged Microsoft at earnings per share of $1.34 on $38.64 billion in revenue for the company's fiscal 2005 year, which started July 1.
Revenue growth for the fourth quarter was primarily driven by continued strong PC and server shipment growth, Microsoft said. Additionally, the MSN Internet group saw an increase in advertising revenue and Microsoft benefited from the weak U.S. dollar, the company said.
Microsoft also appears to be doing well in selling its much-critiqued Software Assurance (SA) software maintenance program and enterprise agreement licenses, which tie customers to a multiyear contract that includes software updates. For Microsoft such annuity licenses mean guaranteed revenue.
Microsoft projected that between 10 percent and 30 percent of customers with expiring Upgrade Advantage (UA) contracts would buy SA. "So far we are tracking to the high end of that range," Connors said.