Amazon Flops, Microsoft Tops Earnings

Two big-name stocks reported earnings after the bell Thursday — Amazon.com (AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT) — to widely differing results. These companies are not necessarily directly compatible, but both are tech-related behemoths interested in taking cloud-based market share from companies such as IBM (IBM). Succinctly, Amazon missed on the top and bottom lines while also guiding lower for next quarter. Microsoft posted a beat on earnings and revenues in its fiscal Q1 2015.

Amazon announced an earnings loss of 95 cents per share on revenues of $20.58 billion, missing badly the Zacks consensus estimates of -73 cents and $20.86 billion. But that’s not the real surprise here; Amazon routinely posts disastrous bottom lines, and its Q3 result is the third negative earnings surprise in the past four quarters. Growing the company long-term has been this company’s modus operandi, and quarterly results are largely considered irrelevant. But Amazon guided lower for Q4 sales: $27.3-30.3 billion, significantly short of the Zacks consensus of $30.98 billion.

This is big news. Investors have been long looking past disappointments in the near-term bottom-line for +20% top-line growth each quarter, which Amazon has provided for the past five quarters now. But guiding lower for the all-important 2014 holiday season is signaling a red flag for many after-hours traders. AMZN shares have sold off more than 10% in the late market following Amazon’s earnings miss.

Clearly many Amazon shareholders have had about enough of Jeff Bezos’ system of big top-line growth at the expense of earnings. But when the top-line no longer meets the trend line, that’s when you see a popular stock like AMZN trading at 52-week lows.

Microsoft, on the other hand, reported 54 cents per share and $23.2 billion in sales, easily beating the 48 cents and $21.8 billion, respectively. Revenues for its Devices and Consumer segment brought in $10.96 billion, a 47% improvement year over year. Guidance for fiscal Q2 will be made available on Microsoft’s conference call following the earnings announcement. Microsoft shares are up 4.3% in the after-market.

So there you have it: Amazon, which had been excused quarter after quarter for missing earnings estimates because its kept growing out its businesses, is paying the price for its poor performance (for the second quarter in a row it is trading down after a disappointing announcement, I might add); Microsoft, which had been largely ignored by investors for not being grandiose enough in its scope for the past several quarters, is being rewarded for taking care of its business at hand.
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