Microsoft posts record sales as Ballmer prepares to exit

WASHINGTON – Microsoft Corp’s customers flocked to game consoles and cloud software last quarter, helping Steve Ballmer deliver results that topped projections in his last months as chief executive officer.

Revenue climbed 14 percent to a record $24.5 billion in the fiscal second quarter that ended Dec. 31, Microsoft said in a statement Friday.

The stock rose as much as 4.2 percent, the biggest gain in 2 1/2 months.

Ballmer, who has said he would retire by this August, has kicked off Microsoft’s biggest transition in more than a decade.

The world’s largest software maker is in the middle of implementing reorganization and is working to close the acquisition of Nokia Oyj’s handset unit.

Microsoft posts record sales as Ballmer prepares to exitMicrosoft introduced the new Xbox One game machine in the holiday quarter and boosted sales of Web-based software such as Azure and Office 365, even as its traditional programs continue to languish along with personal-computer shipments, which posted a record drop in 2013.

“They continue to defy the skeptics,” said Brent Thill, an analyst at UBS AG in San Francisco who has a buy rating on the stock. “This company is outpacing every other large-cap enterprise company by miles. They’re doing the right things. The last part of this is you have to get the right head coach.”

Shares of Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft rose 3.1 percent to $37.16 at 9:39 a.m. in New York, on Friday. The stock added 40 percent in 2013, compared with a 30 percent increase in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Net income in the second quarter rose 2.8 percent to $6.56 billion, or 78 cents a share, from $6.38 billion, or 76 cents, a year earlier. Analysts had projected on average profit of 69 cents.

Unearned revenue, which comes from sales of multiyear deals that will be recognized in the future, was $19.5 billion for the quarter, compared with the $20.5 billion average analyst projection, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

– BUSINESS DAY

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