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Microsoft earnings in spotlight for signs of business recovery, Xbox growth

Microsoft is a winner of the pandemic-driven shift to working and learning from home, with businesses and schools adopting its Teams collaboration software and shifting many other apps to the cloud. 

Investors will closely track growth of Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing business that competes with Amazon.com's Amazon Web services and Alphabet Inc's Google Cloud.
Investors will closely track growth of Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing business that competes with Amazon.com's Amazon Web services and Alphabet Inc's Google Cloud. (Reuters )

When Microsoft Corp reports earnings on Tuesday, investors will be looking for signs that big businesses are still investing in cloud computing, that smaller businesses are starting to recover and whether Xbox sales will be slowed by chip shortages.

The Redmond, Washington-based company is a winner of the pandemic-driven shift to working and learning from home, with businesses and schools adopting its Teams collaboration software and shifting many other apps to the cloud. But the pandemic also hurt sales to small businesses and sparked a global semiconductor shortage, analysts said.

Investors will closely track growth of Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing business that competes with Amazon.com's Amazon Web Services and Alphabet Inc's Google Cloud. Analysts are expecting a 41.4% rise in Azure sales, according to Visible Alpha.

They will be looking for signs of a resumption in stalled spending, from one-time projects at larger businesses to sales of apps such as Office to small businesses.

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"We will look for both a growing bookings number and positive qualitative management guidance to indicate that the worst is behind us and customers of all sizes are now engaged deeper in digital transformation conversations," Evercore ISI analyst Kirk Materne wrote in a note.

Microsoft launched two new Xbox models in November, and Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said the company expected only 40% gaming hardware revenue growth because of supply constraints.

Analysts say the new consoles also factor heavily into growth of subscribers to GamePass, Microsoft's $10 per month gaming service that had 15 million subscribers as of September.

Overall, analysts expect Microsoft on Tuesday to report fiscal second quarter sales of $40.18 billion and earnings per share of $1.64, according to IBES data from Refinitiv as of January 25. 

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