Microsoft Earning Revenue Like It’s 1999

Years after Microsoft first started telling financial analysts and investors that it wouldn’t be able to keep up the annual growth rates that they had come to expect, the company continues to reap double-digit quarters.

The company announced today that it did it again, raking in $13.76 billion in revenue for the first quarter of its fiscal 2008 year ended Sept. 30. The figure represents a whopping 27 percent leap from the same quarter last year, and the company’s strongest first quarter in years.

“This fiscal year is off to an outstanding start with the fastest revenue growth of any first quarter since 1999,” said Chris Liddell, chief financial officer at Microsoft, in a statement.

Microsoft also reported operating income of $5.92 billion and net income of $4.29 billion, which comes to $0.45 diluted earnings per share. Microsoft stock was up 11 percent in after hours trading, a rise of $3.57, bringing the price up to $35.56, which was well ahead of the previous 52-week high of $32.22, according to Yahoo Finance.

“It’s a strong quarter across the board, the strongest I’ve seen in a few years [and it] shows that Microsoft is still a force to be reckoned with, given its global scope and the strength of its core businesses on the client and server,” Matt Rosoff, lead analyst for consumer products and services, and corporate news, told in an e-mail.

The company is planning to continue on that tack for the time being. Microsoft executives said they expect revenues for second quarter, which ends December 31, to be in the $15.6 billion to $16.1 billion range. Likewise, they said operating income should increase to between $5.6 billion and $6.1 billion, with diluted earnings per share in line with the current quarter at between $0.44 and $0.46.

This quarter’s growth came as a result of strong sales from its Client, Microsoft Business Division, and Server and Tools groups, which grew their combined revenue by more than 20 percent. The company attributed those sales to “robust demand” for Windows Vista, Office 2007, Windows Server, and SQL Server.

That is not to forget record demand for Xbox 360 gaming consoles in the quarter, as well as explosive sales of Halo 3 which shipped September 25. The game grossed $300 million worldwide in just its first week of sales.

Partly due to the release of Halo 3, the company also sold 1.8 million Xbox 360 consoles during the quarter, officials said during a conference call with financial analysts Thursday afternoon after the markets closed. Officials did not discuss the company’s recent decision to let Halo creators, Bungie Studios, leave the corporate fold.

And despite reports of slow sales, Liddell told analysts the company has now sold 85 million volume licenses for Vista – in July, he said that number was 60 million. Although he acknowledged that doesn’t directly translate into installed units, it signals corporate customers’ “intent” to deploy Vista.

“It’s still early days,” Liddell said, adding, “Obviously, we’ll be helped a little by SP1 [Service Pack 1].” Many corporate customers traditionally wait until after Microsoft has released the first service pack for a new operating system before they begin to deploy it. SP1 is currently in beta test and is scheduled to be released to manufacturing in the first quarter of 2008.

On the online services side, Microsoft officials said that advertising revenues grew by 33 percent year over year for a total of $487 million, excluding $80 million of income during the quarter due to the acquisition of aQuantive, which cost the company a cool $6 billion.

Liddell also declined to comment specifically on Wednesday’s announcement that the company is investing $240 million in social networking site Facebook.

For the entire fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2008, the company is expecting revenues of from $58.8 to $59.7 billion, with operating income of $23.3 to $23.7 billion, and diluted earnings per share in the range of $1.78 to $1.81.

Microsoft stock was up 11 percent in after hours trading, a rise of $3.57, bringing the price up to $35.56, which was well ahead of the previous 52-week high of $32.22, according to Yahoo Finance.

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