At reader’s request: Microsoft’s financial disappointment
It almost feels like covering an old story, so herein we mention only a few new developments and reference the rest at the bottom.
As many have realised before the week ended, Microsoft is not in a good shape. It’s nothing like it used to be, but Microsoft goes out of its way to keep up appearances, even using aggression. Perceptual momentum is essential for growth through customer obedience and investor confidence.
“Ask what it is not telling you. It has plenty to conceal.”Just as predicted, Microsoft emhasised revenue, which the massive acquisitions make rather meaningless (buying revenue is easy at the expense of savings). Those who have read this site for a while might not be surprised, but the Microsoft-owned press can be hugely self-serving, i.e. deceiving. Contradictions to it can be painted black… like a black sheep that Big Lies make possible.
Microsoft shares fell sharply, just as they did in the previous quarter when profits fell and Microsoft was no longer able to pretend and conceal its pains. This marked the beginning of a stage where we are likely to see Microsoft’s estimates and forecasts lowered and then potentially missed again and again. Recall the fact that Microsoft lowered its projection in the last quarter (and missed them again).
When looking at the financial results, do not ask what Microsoft wants to show you and get journalists blinded by. Ask what it is not telling you. It has plenty to conceal. Being a large company, it can do a lot of division- and bucket-shuffling to impress investors. Here is just one old example: Microsoft Hides Its Mobile and Business Apps Divisions
The company is folding its two worst-performing divisions — Microsoft Business Solutions (its business applications unit) and its Mobile and Embedded units — into the Microsoft Business Division and Microsoft Home and Entertainment units, respectively.
For details about Microsoft’s financial game, see some of the many previous posts (listed at the very bottom).
Let’s take a quick look at some of the realistic (in-depth, as opposed to ‘Microsoft parroting’) press coverage that Microsoft received at the end of the week.
Shares of Microsoft Corp. dropped more than 6% in after-hours trading after the software giant posted a fiscal fourth-quarter profit that fell short of Wall Street’s estimates as it forecast lower-than-expected revenue for the following quarter.
According to an analyst quoted by The Street, Microsoft is “not doing well on the earnings front.”
Karen Finerman said that Microsoft was “a little disappointing,” and that she does not “love two quarters in a row of them being lower.”
Adami said that Microsoft’s major problem is that it does not tell what is going on. He said that it must “communicate with the Street better.”
Najarian said that Microsoft was “not doing well on the earnings front,” and “don’t buy this name thinking you’re going to get a monster pop.”
Buying lots and lots of companies (wasting money) for increase in revenue and employees just makes the company clumsy and overweight. John Dvorak opines that the strategy of the company as a whole is misguided and hubris-driven.
The secondary message, which we’ve all heard for some time now, is that the business model for the software giant is a dead end, if not over already
To make matters worse, the company is now making itself look more desperate over the new toy in the sandbox called Yahoo Inc.
We wrote about the Microsoft-Icahn duo before. They are now visibly united as they carry on with their planned proxy war. It does not help Microsoft in any way because it makes it look bad, never mind the distraction it causes.
In the latest salvo in the proxy fight for control of Yahoo, the company is urging shareholders to beware of the “odd couple” — Microsoft and the corporate raider Carl C. Icahn — who are locked in a “marriage of convenience” but have no clear plan for what they would do if they took control of the board.
Yahoo is now also using its Web space to attack Microsoft and Icahn, apart from describing the latter as a corporate agitator. It’s not good for business.
Even the Microsoft-associated financial Web site, Motley Fool, comes off with the headline: “Whither Microsoft?”
But the bears have a response or two ready. “Microsoft is currently too big to expand significantly above where they currently are,” says all-star Fool simultaneouslee. “Also, with Bill Gates no longer involved in Microsoft and the more eccentric Steve Ballmer running the show on his own, not as many investors will be inspired by Steve Ballmer’s visions for Microsoft as they were Gates.”
OK, so Microsoft is on sale right now — but perhaps with good reason. The company is facing unprecedented obstacles on every side.
In some ‘mainstream press’ articles, the economy as a whole takes the blame (Microsoft too tried to use that as an excuse). Examples:
It may run deeper than this. Consider some new observations, as follows.
The Online Unit does badly:
Shares in Microsoft were trading down 6.3% in after-hours trading at $25.78, after closing up 0.95% to 27.52.
Microsoft said earlier that its online services business lost $488 million, on sales of $838 million. In the year-earlier period, the online services business lost $210 million.
The entertainment unit too has some serious trouble ahead. Relative sales of XBox 360 fell sharply in the month of June and the company seems unlikely to recover, even with considerable discounts. The XBox division/unit has lost about $7 billion since 2001 and other products like the Zune seem to be approaching death.
I wonder why Steve Ballmer freaks out at the thought of losing the search and advertising wars to Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), but not at handing the game-console crown to Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) or the music market to Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL). How is it worth throwing billions after a major rival, only to scare away the engineering talent that makes (made?) Yahoo! great? In the second case, well, let’s just throw more bad money after that Zune abomination and hope the Xbox saves the day.
On the Microsoft Office division:
The Microsoft Office division numbers were a disappointment. Operating earnings there only grew a disappointing 12% for the period. The company’s online division posted an increase in revenue to $838 million from $677 million a year ago. However, losses for that division doubled to $488 million from $210 million, as management spent heavily on data centers and new employees to ramp up ad sales.
“Fear, uncertainty and doubt” are blamed also:
Citigroup analyst Brent Thill wrote Friday that the stock’s low price-to-earnings multiple reflects investors’ fear, uncertainty and doubt: fear that the product cycle will never deliver margin expansion, uncertainty that Microsoft will ever do a deal with Yahoo! and doubt that further online investments will pay off.
Lastly, The Ugly
As the links at the bottom will show, there’s a lot in Microsoft’s past about financial irregularity and misconduct as well. And fresh from the news:
Former manager gets 22 months in prison, fines for embezzling
Gudmundson was responsible for managing Microsoft’s domain names from 2000 to 2004.
Remember what Robert Bach, a Microsoft Vice President, did last year while escaping investigation or punishment.
And wait! Watch this newly-disclosed gem (Microsoft’s mortgage issue) from a source that is close to Microsoft:
In another surprise disclosure, Microsoft said its investments include mortgage-backed securities but they’re mostly “prime” mortgages and the portfolio is not directly exposed to the sub-prime meltdown:
“While we own certain mortgage and asset-backed fixed-income securities, our portfolio as of June 30, 2008, does not contain direct exposure to subprime mortgages or structured vehicles that derive their value from sub-prime collateral. The majority of the mortgage-backed securities are collateralized by prime residential mortgages and carry a 100% principal and interest guarantee, primarily from Federal National Mortgage Association, Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, and Government National Mortgage Association. The remainder of the mortgage position is collateralized by high quality international prime residential mortgage loans.”
For more information, see our previous posts which are filled with many informative references handpicked from the press.
- References Roundup: Microsoft’s Financial Situation
- The Game of Economics
- Dana Blankenhorn: Novell is ‘Massaging’ Its Financial Figures
- Financial Games: Novell’s Main Strength?
- Recommended Readings: OLPC and Microsoft’s Financial Games
- Links 25/04/2008: Windows Sales Down 24%, Yahoo Bid Wobbly
- Off-Topic: The Secret Crumbling of Microsoft’s Key Staff
Criticism, if any, should be directed at the sources, not the messengers. The truth will come out one day. █
“Sadly, many of these brilliant people have been blinded by the stock price and unable to see that Microsoft is also the key architect of the greatest financial pyramid scheme this century.
“It is not uncommon for participants in pyramid schemes to lose their emotional bearings. My close friends who work at Microsoft are particularly upset over my work and it is possible that even Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer do not realize the implications of their financial practices.”
“Microsoft has clearly entered a phase of self destructive behavior that began with the “tissue paper campaign” in 1995. This report will document this campaign for the first time.”