Microsoft Earnings Draw Mixed Reactions from Analysts

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After Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) reported a solid beat on fiscal first-quarter estimates after markets closed Thursday night, the company’s shares rose 7% and managed to keep the gains through the first 90 minutes of trading Friday morning. But compared with analysts reactions to results from Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), one can only characterize the reactions as cool.

Here are some examples we have picked up:

  • Jefferies: Our recent upgrade [to Buy] was based on the transition to the cloud, transparency for the ‘BestCo’ commercial assets and optionality on assumed low intrinsic value for Windows. F1Q14 was positive for all these trends. Despite est[imate] cuts due to GM pressure from the Xbox One launch, our thesis is very much intact.
  • Goldman Sachs: While Microsoft executed very well in F1Q14, we continue to believe that EPS estimates will move lower as the company transforms its business. We believe the transitional journey the company is on will take multiple years to play out. The analyst reiterated a Sell rating on Microsoft and 12-month price target of $28, which is 17% below the company’s Thursday closing price of $33.72.
  • Janney Capital Markets: The firm maintains a Neutral rating for the stock, and called the quarterly results “encouraging,” saying that the company is showing signs of stabilizing. The firm’s analyst warned, however, that Microsoft’s profits will remain under pressure as it continues its transformation into a devices and services company.

Only 29% of analysts have a Buy-equivalent rating on Microsoft according to FactSet. The average among S&P 500 stocks is almost 49%.

The difference between Amazon and Microsoft is that the former is executing on a strategy it has held from the beginning — market share is the only thing that counts. Transforming a business, as Microsoft is trying to do, is a far trickier thing. Markets are willing to give Amazon time to dominate but are wary of waiting for Microsoft to transition away from a dominant position to far more competitive sectors.

Microsoft shares were trading at $35.71 late Friday morning, up nearly 6% from Thursday’s close and still within a 52-week range of $26.26 to $36.43.

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