As usual, Microsoft Corp. did better than analysts had been expecting in the latest quarter, with earnings rising 62 percent.
The Redmond, Wash., company said it earned $2.2 billion (40 cents a share) in its fourth quarter, compared with $1.36 billion (25 cents) a year earlier.
"It was a very great quarter," Chief Financial Officer Greg Maffei declared in a conference call with analysts. Wall Street analysts had been expecting an average of 36 cents a share, according to a First Call survey. The so-called "whisper" number of last-minute unofficial estimates was 38 cents a share.
Microsoft's revenue surged 39 percent, to $5.76 billion, in the quarter ended June 30.
But the software manufacturer, as usual, warned that such heady times won't continue. "Our revenue is not going to grow as rapidly as it has in each of the last five years," said Maffei. He suggested that instead of that "torrid" 39 percent, a better estimate for fiscal 2000 was a "healthy" 26 percent.
"It is a great company," said Paul Dravis, an analyst with Banc of America Securities. "They delivered a superb quarter. They have a lot of traction with Office 2000, and the franchise remains intact on the Windows operating system."
For its fiscal year, earnings were $7.79 billion ($1.42), up 69 percent from $4.49 billion (84 cents) the previous year. Revenue rose 29 percent, to $19.75 billion.
Aside from the Justice Department antitrust case in Washington, these are great times for Microsoft. Last Friday it won an antitrust lawsuit filed against it in Connecticut, leading the stock to surge 5 percent to a new high, and its total stock market value passed $500 billion.
The results were released after the close of the stock markets. In trading before the announcement, Microsoft shares fell $1.06 1/4 to $98.37 1/2.
Also powering the stock on Friday was a report in the Wall Street Journal that Microsoft was likely to set up a separate tracking stock for its Internet properties. Such a move would give the properties a valuation more in tune with those of Net operations based in Silicon Valley -- i.e., enormous. "We are reviewing such a structure but have no imminent plans to announce such a structure," Maffei said today.
Among numbers Microsoft provided yesterday for its Web properties: The free e-mail service Hotmail has 40 million users; the travel service Expedia has hit $16 million in weekly sales; CarPoint has $475 million a month in sales for affiliated dealers; and on one day in April, when the war in Kosovo was flaring, MSNBC, its joint cable venture with NBC, reached 1.7 million users.
Blemishes? "Frankly," Maffei said, "we have work to do against Palm," the hand-held personal device made by 3Com Corp. Microsoft makes a stripped-down version of its Windows system for Palm competitors.
As a hedge against the potentially perilous future, Microsoft is increasingly investing in other technology companies, capped by a $5 billion investment in AT&T Corp. But it still has about $17 billion in cash left in its corporate piggy bank.
In its studiedly cautious notes about the future, the company warned that there may still be some Y2K-induced slowdown in sales over the next six months. Maffei acknowledged that personal computer sales in this country have had "a great run," but warned, "we don't know how long that's sustainable."