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Microsoft Corporation : Microsoft 3Q Net Slips 2.4% As Entertainment Sales Fall

04/19/2012 | 04:29pm US/Eastern

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) fiscal third-quarter profit slid 2.4% from a year-earlier period that included a tax benefit as the software giant reported weaker sales in its entertainment business, though revenue increased in its other segments.

Microsoft shares jumped 2.6% to $31.82 in recent after-hours trading as both per-share earnings and revenue topped analyst expectations. The stock is up 19% since the start of the year.

Microsoft's continued strength in sales of its Office suite of products to corporate customers has helped cushion the company from the impact of slumping personal computer sales. Microsoft warned in January that a shortage of hard disk drives, a result of supply disruptions due to last year's flooding in Thailand, would again pressure PC shipments in the third quarter. Windows is the software powering most of the world's PCs.

However, Microsoft needs sales of its flagship products to remain robust as it transitions customers to cloud services and its forthcoming Windows 8 operating system.

The company has spent the past two years developing Windows 8, which will for the first time run on both desktop computers and tablet devices. The company is counting on Windows 8, expected to launch later this year, to dent the dominance of Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Google Inc. (GOOG) in the expanding consumer and mobile markets.

For the quarter ended March 31, Microsoft reported a profit of $5.11 billion, or 60 cents a share, down from $5.23 billion, or 61 cents a share, a year earlier. The year-earlier results included a 5-cent tax benefit related to an agreement with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Revenue jumped 6% to $17.41 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters most recently predicted earnings of 57 cents a share on revenue of $17.18 billion.

Total operating expenses were up 2.9%.

Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division saw revenue increase 4% as profit rose 5.7%.

Revenue for the company's servers and tools products, which form the backbone of enterprise networks and private clouds, climbed 14% while the segment's profit advanced 29%.

At the business division, which earns most of its sales from Microsoft Office, sales were up 9.1% as profit improved 14%. Recent quarters have seen strong demand for the company's cloud-based Office 365 suite of office utilities and collaboration tools.

Sales at the entertainment-and-devices business, which houses the Xbox video game console, slumped 16% due to a soft gaming console market.

In online services, revenue was up 6%. Microsoft has invested heavily in the unit, launching a splashy advertising blitz last year to promote Bing, which is the second-most-popular search engine in the U.S. behind Google Inc. (GOOG), according to comScore Inc. (SCOR).

-By Nathalie Tadena, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3287; nathalie.tadena@dowjones.com

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