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Microsoft’s lower earnings lead analysts’ forecasts

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SEATTLE » Microsoft Corp. said yesterday that its net income for the latest quarter fell slightly from a year ago, and it beat Wall Street’s expectations despite the weak personal computer market.

Sales of Office 2010 buoyed the results, as did the popularity of Kinect, Microsoft’s new motion-sensing controller for the Xbox 360 video game system.

Microsoft’s net income for the October-December quarter was $6.63 billion, compared with $6.66 billion in the same period last year. Thanks to stock buybacks, net income rose to 77 cents a share, from 74 cents. Analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting net income of 69 cents a share for the fiscal second quarter.

In all, Microsoft’s revenue edged up 5 percent to $20 billion, topping analysts’ expectations for $19.2 billion in revenue.

The software maker rushed out its earnings report a few minutes early, just before the markets closed for the day, after a pre-production draft of the earnings release was discovered by one or more media sources who then published the results to the Web before market close. Shares spiked to more than $29 per share in heavy trading about 15 minutes before the closing bell, before dropping back to $28.87, a 9-cent gain for the day. Investors sent shares down 9 cents to $28.78 in extended trading.

AMAZON’S REVENUE FALLS SHORT

SAN FRANCISCO » Amazon.com uncharacteristically missed Wall Street’s revenue target in the fourth quarter, sending the stock tumbling 9 percent and showing that not all Internet companies benefited equally from the holiday shopping season.

The results from the world’s biggest online retailer highlight the unevenness of retail’s recovery, as people have picked up their spending after the official end of the Great Recession but are being picky about what they buy. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos noted that the company hit two important milestones in the quarter: cracking $10 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time, and selling more electronic books for Amazon’s hot-selling Kindle device than paperbacks.

Still, the revenue miss jolted investors, signaling that expectations were running too hot for a company whose stock price had jumped nearly 75 percent since its 52-week low of $105.80 in July. After the results were reported yesterday, Amazon shares fell $16.18, or 8.8 percent, to $168.27 in extended trading.

Net income was $416 million, or 91 cents a share. Analysts expected 88 cents a share. A year ago, Amazon earned $384 million, or 85 cents a share. Revenue jumped 36 percent to $12.95 billion, but analysts were expecting $13.02 billion.

ELSEWHERE …

» AT&T Inc., the wireless carrier that is about to lose its exclusive hold on the Apple Inc. iPhone in the U.S., predicted full-year earnings that might miss analysts’ estimates. Earnings will increase by a "mid-single digits" percentage from last year’s $2.22 a share, AT&T said yesterday. At 5 percent growth, earnings would be about $2.33, compared with $2.50, the average of estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Fourth-quarter net income fell to $1.09 billion from $2.73 billion a year earlier. Revenue was $31.4 billion, up 2.1 percent from a year ago.

» Time Warner Cable Inc. booked a 22 percent jump in fourth-quarter profit as it enticed more customers to upgrade to pricier bundles of cable, Internet and phone service. It also boosted its dividend payout 20 percent. Still, the company lost another 141,000 cable TV subscribers, its second-biggest quarterly loss ever. Growth came instead from its high-speed Internet and phone businesses.

» Procter & Gamble Co. says sales are slowly starting to pick up. The maker of Tide detergent and Gillette shavers had net income of $3.33 billion, a slide of 28 percent compared with $4.66 billion last year, when earnings got a boost from sale of the company’s prescription drug business. Revenue rose 2 percent to $21.3 billion.

 

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