Microsoft Post-Mulally Rumors: Where To Next?

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Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s next CEO will definitely not be Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) CEO Alan Mulally. He officially put those rumors to rest this week. But what does the end of those rumors mean for Microsoft and who’s left on the company’s list? Analysts from more than one firm are pondering those questions after the Mulally news.

Microsoft moves past Mulally

Analysts generally agree that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s share price before Mulally’s official announcement already had his not coming to the company priced in. There was an initial excitement when the rumors started, but as time went on, it looked less and less like he would leave Ford to go to Microsoft.

Nonetheless, the official word may have weighed on shares slightly. Evercore analyst Kirk Materne and his team continue to like Microsoft, specifically for investors looking at a nine to 12 month investment range. Their view did not assume Mulally would go to Microsoft, so it hasn’t changed much since the announcement. They think investors will continue to prefer external candidates for the top spot at Microsoft rather than internal ones.

MKM Partners analysts Israel Hernandez and Tyler Radke tend to believe that an inside candidates may be more likely to land the CEO position at Microsoft. They agree that an inside candidate would probably be seen as a negative by the activist community, and they remain less constructive on Microsoft than Evercore does.

The Evercore team highlights two internal candidates—Satya Nadella and Tony Bates—as being potentially better than others because they might be able to put organizational change into action more quickly because they are insiders.

Looking past Microsoft’s CEO search

MKM Partners has a Neutral rating and a $30 per share price target on Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT). They think as investors move past the CEO search and focus more on the company’s fundamentals, shares will slump back down to the lower $30s.

Evercore, however, has an Overweight rating and a $45 per share price target on Microsoft, emphasizing the long-term potential of the company. They note that no matter who lands the top spot at Microsoft, investors will start looking at the company in a fresh light just because there’s a fresh CEO at the helm. They note that Microsoft’s composition is “significantly different” now than it was just two or three years ago. It focuses more on commercial and less on consumer.

Microsoft could “rationalize” its cost structure

They admit that Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) will probably continue seeing challenges in the consumer business, especially in mobile, but they think the new organizational structure will result in the company’s strategy becoming more streamlined. They also think the next CEO will be able to tighten up the company’s cost structure over the course of the next 12 to 18 months.

In addition, they think the PC business won’t be as bad this year as it was last year and note that so far, the Xbox One launch has been a success. They believe the implied valuation of Microsoft’s commercial business could increase as it becomes “a more ratable business” with “better visibility.” And the increase of the implied valuation of the commercial business is important because they estimate that it makes up about 75% of Microsoft’s earnings per share.

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