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They say we're too mean to Microsoft. Well, how about this... Redmond just had a stonking year. And only 8% tax. Whee!

Paid -17% tax rate for Q4 despite making $72m every day

In its final quarter of its fiscal 2017, Microsoft more than doubled its profits, saw massive cloud growth, and managed to get a rebate from US taxpayers at the same time.

For the three months to June 30, Microsoft's net income rose 109 per cent and earnings per share 112 per cent. All of its divisions, with the exception of the traditional personal computer arm, recorded at least double digit growth.

"I'm proud of the progress, particularly in our commercial cloud business," said CEO Satya Nadella during a conference call with Wall Street on Thursday. "Our technology world view of an intelligent cloud and intelligent edge is resonating with businesses everywhere."

Yeah, we're really resonating with something, Sat. As you'd expect, investors were happy with the results, and Redmond's stock rose sharply in after-hours trading... and then fell back to where it started at about $74 apiece.

Here's a rundown of the key results for the quarter and the full financial year, with all figures as GAAP results, reflecting The Reg's preference for non-Enron economics.

  • Total revenue: In the final quarter of the financial year Microsoft saw revenues rise 13 per cent year-on-year to $23.3bn, one of its better quarters of the year. This helped the fiscal year revenues to a touch under $90bn, up five per cent on the 2016 results.
  • Net income: When it comes to the all-important profit figures, it was a stonking quarter with net income up 109 per cent to $6.5bn, or over $72m a day. Overall profits for 2017 were $21.2bn, up 26 per cent across the year.
  • Earnings per share: Microsoft's EPS soared, in part due to those excellent profit numbers. For the quarter EPS was $0.83, up 112 per cent on this time last year. Like its revenues, the non-GAAP EPS of $0.98 beat analysts' expectations. For 2017 as a whole EPS was $2.74.
  • Dividends and taxes: In the final quarter, Microsoft splurged $4.6bn on its shareholders in returned profits. These were distributed as dividends, but also in buying up Microsoft stock to make sure that the price stays high.

    However, this was also helped by an effective tax rate for the quarter of -17 per cent, which stemmed from Redmond writing off costs from its failed mobile phone play. Overall for the year, Microsoft paid a tax rate of eight per cent, which is nice if you can get it. America's corporate tax rate is around 35 per cent.

  • Productivity and Business Processes: This was the star performer for the fourth quarter, with revenues up 21 per cent at $8.4bn. For the year, the division brought in $30.4bn, up from $26.5bn the previous year.

    Sales of Office 365 outpaced installed Office software for the first time, with revenues up 43 per cent for the quarter, compared to falling revenues of 17 per cent for the installed software. Microsoft's CFO Amy Hood said that several large contract wins and a continuing shift to cloud helps Office 365 considerably this quarter, and that there were 90 million Office 365 users on iOS and Android.

    As for Dynamics, overall revenues were up 7 per cent but Dynamics 365 takings rose 74 per cent. LinkedIn brought revenues of $1.1bn to the division, but it suffered a $361m loss thanks to amortized intangibles.

  • Intelligent Cloud: Azure's popularity buoyed the division's revenue growth this quarter, with sales hitting $7.4bn, up 11 per cent year-on-year.

    As in the previous quarter, it was Azure that was the golden child, with revenues up 97 per cent in Q4. Hood noted that Azure now has 40 data centers open around the world now that it has finished new facilities in Southern Africa, more than any of its competitors, and that sales of premium Azure services also grew at triple digits.

    Server products revenues grew at a more measured pace, up four per cent in Q4, but enterprise services revenues were down three per cent as companies shifted away from long-term support contracts.

    For the full year, Intelligent Cloud revenues were $27.4bn, up from $25bn in 2016.

  • More Personal Computing: This division continues to contract as Microsoft makes the shift into a cloud focus from installed software, with revenues of $8.8bn in Q4, down two per cent year-on-year. For the full year, this division pulled in $38.8bn, down from $40.4bn in fiscal 2016.

    Sales of Windows OEM licenses to businesses actually rose three per cent in Q4, but on the consumer side sales for Windows stayed flat. Windows commercial products and services sales were up eight per cent year-on-year.

    Sales on Microsoft's Surface hardware lineup fell by two per cent in the fourth quarter, since there has only been a model refresh for Redmond's fondleslab line in the last month. Microsoft reported good search revenue growth, up 10 per cent for the quarter, but it's not something that is going to be giving Google nightmares.

    Nadella really bigged up Microsoft's gaming division during the results call, saying the group had "explosive growth" during the quarter and that Xbox Live now has 53 million active users. Redmond had a "unique position" in the gaming market, he said, and anticipates strong growth when Redmond's next console comes out.

"As for the 2018 outlook we see increasing demand for cloud services and higher renewals going forward," Hood concluded. "Traditional transactional business will continue to decline in the move to the cloud, but commercial cloud revenues will fluctuate to meet changing demands." ®

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