camila October 27, 2021

BENGALURU (REUTERS) – Microsoft on Tuesday (Oct 26) forecast a strong end to the calendar year thanks to its booming cloud business but said supply chain woes will continue to dog key units such as those producing its Surface laptops and Xbox gaming consoles.

The company beat Wall Street expectations for its first quarter ended Sept 30, with pandemic-induced demand for the software giant’s cloud-based services driving sales.

Contracts for cloud services provided by Microsoft,’s AWS and Alphabet-owned Google Cloud have surged since last year when the Covid-19 pandemic shut offices and schools, pushing more activity online.

First-quarter revenue growth for Azure, the company’s flagship cloud computing business, came in at 48 per cent in constant currency to beat analysts’ estimates of 47.5 per cent, according to consensus data from Visible Alpha.

Microsoft’s executive vice-president and chief financial officer Amy Hood said that the company also expected “broad-based growth” for the unit in the fiscal second quarter.

Azure’s growth rate is the best direct measure of competition with rivals such as AWS and Google Cloud as Microsoft does not break out revenue from the cloud computing unit.

Microsoft appeared to hold off Google Cloud’s rising challenge. Google Cloud said on Tuesday its revenue surged by 45 per cent to US$4.99 billion (S$6.74 billion), but failed to live up to estimates of US$5.2 billion.

Revenue at the firm’s other business units that house Windows software, the Teams messaging service and LinkedIn professional social networking platform also beat analyst expectations.

The supply chain issues affecting much of the global tech industry had mixed consequences for Microsoft.

Ms Hood said Microsoft has continued to increase its cloud computing margins despite higher data centre construction costs because it keeps adding more profitable services to those data centres. Ms Hood also said that the company was able to ship more Xbox S and X gaming consoles than it expected in the first quarter – sales of gaming consoles and accessories were up 166 per cent as the company continued to see strong demand for new models after the pandemic forced millions to seek entertainment at home.

But Microsoft and its rivals have been unable to keep up with demand because of the global chip crunch. Ms Hood told Reuters the company expects Xbox demand to continue to exceed supply in the company’s second quarter, which includes Christmas.

She also said that sales of the company’s Surface computers, which declined 17 per cent in the fiscal first quarter, were likely to keep sinking in the second quarter, with supply chain shortages hitting premium items in the lineup.

Microsoft’s revenue from selling Windows to personal computer makers grew 10 per cent year on year, beating the overall PC market, which only grew 3.9 per cent over the same period because of supply constraints, according to data from IDC.

Ms Hood said that the company was able to outperform in the PC market because of its strength in selling licences for Windows destined for corporate customers, where it gets more revenue per licence and has better market share.

Overall, revenue rose 22 per cent to US$45.32 billion in the first quarter ended Sept 30, beating expectations of about US$43.97 billion.

Net income rose to US$20.51 billion, or US$2.71 per share. The company said its results included a US$3.3 billion net income tax benefit.

On an adjusted basis it earned US$2.27 per share, trumping analyst expectations of US$2.07 per share.

For the fiscal second quarter, Microsoft predicted a midpoint of US$18.23 billion in revenue for its intelligent cloud business for the fiscal second quarter, above estimates of US$17.84 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

First-quarter revenue from Intelligent Cloud surged 31 per cent to US$17 billion. Analysts had expected a figure of US$16.58 billion, according to Refinitiv data.