Microsoft isn’t scheduled to release its next earnings report for about another month, but analysts are already sending out their earnings previews and trimming their price targets ahead of that report. Many have trimmed their estimates, resulting in slightly lower price targets.
UBS and Barclays analysts trimmed their targets earlier this week. BGC and Morgan Stanley have now followed suit.
BGC trims Microsoft price target
The two main reasons so many analysts have cut their price targets for Microsoft are weaker than expected demand for PCs and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies. Recently Intel revised downward its guidance for the current quarter, which most say is a bearish signal for Microsoft as well. Oracle also released its latest earnings report this week, citing a 6% negative impact on revenue due to currency exchange rates. It’s expected that Microsoft will see an impact of a similar amount.
IDC expects PC shipments to decline more than previously expected this year because of the strengthening of the U.S. dollar and also the lack of new products, according to BGC analyst Colin Gillis. He maintained his Hold rating and trimmed his price target for Microsoft from $49 to $46 per share.
Microsoft earnings preview
For the March quarter, Gillis expects to see revenue of $21.9 billion, an 8% growth rate year over year and a 17% sequential decline. The consensus estimate for revenue is $21.2 billion. The analyst estimates earnings of 56 cents per share, which is slightly ahead of the consensus estimate of 52 cents per share.
He’s looking for $8.7 billion in Devices and Consumer revenue, a 4% year over year increase and a 33% sequential decline. Gills projects Commercial revenue of $13 billion, a 9% increase year over year and flat sequentially.
Good for Microsoft long term, bad in the short term
The BGC analyst also names three things that should give Microsoft a boost in the long term but will likely drag on the company’s outlook for the 2015 calendar year. For example, offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade will bring customers up to date with the latest version and convince developers to build apps for it.
However, Microsoft continues to earn a large portion of its revenue from software licenses, which means this will negatively impact sales this year. Gills does believe Microsoft still will see some licensing revenue from PCs though, which should mute the impact slightly.
The analyst also pointed out that Microsoft is giving away the Office suite on iPad, iPhone and Android. He thinks this is necessary to prevent the defection of customers to other productivity software. The downside is that this again removes a source of revenue, but he expects Microsoft to come up with other revenue streams to replace it, like selling OneDrive cloud storage space.
Also Microsoft won’t see any licensing revenue from tablets and phones that have screen sizes of less than nine inches. The point of this move is to allow hardware manufacturers to offer more competitive prices for the purpose of gaining traction in the mobile market. So far though, this tactic hasn’t done anything for Microsoft.
Morgan Stanley cuts Microsoft price target
Analysts Keith Weiss, Melissa Gorham and Josh Baer also reduced their estimates and price target for Microsoft this week. They maintained their Equal-weight rating and trimmed their price target from $50 to $46 per share.
For the full 2015 fiscal year, they reduced their earnings per share estimate from $2.58 to $2.46 per share. For 2016, their estimate moves from $2.93 to $2.70 per share.
Microsoft may defer some revenue
The Morgan Stanley team thinks the Windows 10 release this Fall may be a positive catalyst for consumer revenue, but for now, they expect Microsoft to defer part of its Windows manufacturer revenue “to reflect the value of the promised upgrades to Windows 10” in connection with PC sales before the release. The company has done the same thing with past Windows releases.
The analysts said if Microsoft defers half its manufacturer revenue in the September quarter, it could see a negative impact of 11 cents per share in the first fiscal quarter of 2016. The “net effect” to that year is nearly zero though because revenue will be recognized in the quarters after that.
They’re more worried about the Windows Subscription program, which is expected to bring free future OS upgrades, which will have an impact on manufacturer revenues.
As of this writing, shares of Microsoft were up 0.08% to $42.54 per share.