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MarketWatch First Take: Microsoft rides huge tax benefit from failing at smartphones to big earnings beat

Microsoft Corp. beat Wall Street’s earnings estimates by a wide margin in its biggest quarter of the year, and it has a huge failure to thank for it.

On Thursday, Microsoft reported a better-than-expected fiscal fourth quarter, thanks mostly to a $1.8 billion tax write-down from Microsoft’s MSFT, +0.49% money-losing Windows Phone business. This gain added 23 cents a share to earnings, boosting Microsoft’s non-GAAP earnings per share to 98 cents a share, while analysts were looking for an average of 71 cents a share, according to FactSet.

That is not to say that Microsoft’s business was off, mostly because it has been able to latch onto the cloud after missing on smartphones.

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