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Alphabet Plunges as Cloud Segment Misses: Prelude to Remaining Big Tech Reports?

Published 10/25/2023, 12:15 PM

The Big Tech reporting season continues after Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) reported results for the September quarter on Tuesday after market close. While Microsoft delivered another set of strong quarterly results, Alphabet’s cloud unit numbers missed analyst estimates.

As a result, Google-parent saw its stock fall 6% in early Wednesday trade while Microsoft shares gained 4%.

Microsoft: Strong Results and Cautious Guidance

Microsoft’s FQ1 earnings report was closely watched as investors were looking for updates and hints about the demand for cloud services and new AI products. The Redmond-based tech giant reported a surge in profit thanks to a slower pace of operating expense growth.

Earnings per share were reported at $2.99 on revenue of $56.52 billion, crushing the average analyst estimate for a profit per share of $2.65 on sales of $54.5 billion. Revenue grew 13% year-over-year.

Net income also saw a notable increase, reaching $22.29 billion, marking a 27% rise from the $17.56 billion reported in the same quarter a year ago, which translates to $2.35 per share.

“With our strong start to FY '24, I am confident that as a team, we will continue to deliver healthy growth in the year ahead, driven by our leadership in commercial cloud and our commitment to lead the AI platform wave,” said Amy Hood, Microsoft’s CFO.

Microsoft's Intelligent Cloud segment – which encompasses various key components like the Azure public cloud, SQL Server, Windows Server, etc. – demonstrated robust performance, generating $24.26 billion in revenue, reflecting a 19% increase and surpassing the $23.49 billion consensus among Street analysts.

Azure revenue saw a remarkable 29% increase during the quarter, easily outperforming the 26% consensus. While Microsoft does not disclose specific dollar figures for Azure revenue, when considering constant currency, Azure revenue showed strong growth, accelerating from 27% in the fiscal fourth quarter to 28% for the September quarter.

In the Productivity and Business Processes unit, Microsoft achieved $18.59 billion in revenue, marking a notable 13% increase, and higher than the average analyst estimate of $18.19 billion. This unit encompasses various key components, including Microsoft 365 productivity app subscriptions, LinkedIn, and Dynamics enterprise software.

During an earnings call with analysts, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella mentioned that the Teams communication app now has more than 320 million monthly active users, a notable increase from 300 million six months ago.

In the More Personal Computing segment, which encompasses Windows, Xbox, Bing, and Surface, Microsoft reported $13.67 billion in revenue. This reflects a 3% increase YoY and a beat relative to the expectations of $12.85 billion.

"With copilots, we are making the age of AI real for people and businesses everywhere," said Nadella, chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft. "We are rapidly infusing AI across every layer of the tech stack and for every role and business process to drive productivity gains for our customers.”

Nadella added on the call that Microsoft has over 1 million paid Copilot users and more than 37,000 organizations that subscribe to Copilot for business, up 40% quarter over quarter.

While Microsoft shares rose about 6% on the release of the FQ1 earnings report, the stock pared some gains after CEO Amy Hood said the tech titan expects its Q2 revenue to come in the range of $60.4-61.4 billion, which is only in line with the analyst consensus.

“In Azure, we expect revenue growth to be 26% to 27% in constant currency with an increasing contribution from AI. Growth continues to be driven by Azure consumption business, and we expect the trends from Q1 to continue into Q2,” said Hood.

Alphabet Sinks as Cloud Optimization Continues

Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) shares were seen trading over 6% lower in early Wednesday trade after the online search behemoth reported weaker-than-expected results for its cloud segment. The company’s Q3 revenue jumped 11% YoY, which represents a return to double-digit growth.

Earnings per share came in at $1.55 per share, surpassing the expected $1.45 per share. Revenue was $76.69 billion, while analysts were looking for $75.97 billion.

Sundar Pichai, CEO, said:

“I’m pleased with our financial results and our product momentum this quarter, with AIdriven innovations across Search, YouTube, Cloud, our Pixel devices and more. We’re continuing to focus on making AI more helpful for everyone; there’s exciting progress and lots more to come.”

Google's core advertising segment, which had experienced weakness due to economic softening and increased competition from TikTok, reported advertising revenue of $59.65 billion, showing a notable increase from $54.48 billion in the same quarter a year ago.

YouTube advertising revenue also performed well, reporting $7.95 billion in revenue, surpassing analyst expectations. Alphabet said that Shorts – YouTube's TikTok competitor – now boasts 70 billion daily views, a substantial increase from over 50 billion daily views at the beginning of the year.

CFO Ruth Porat said the revenue increase was driven by “meaningful growth in Search and YouTube, and momentum in Cloud.”

“We continue to focus on judicious capital allocation to deliver sustainable financial value,” the highly respected CFO said.

While investors got what they were looking for (the return of ad spending), Alphabet surprised with a rare cloud miss. Sales in this unit amounted to $8.41, falling short of the expected $8.6 billion.

The cloud segment managed to achieve 22% growth from the previous year, which is double the rate of expansion for the company as a whole. Notably, the business also swung to an operating profit of $266 million, a significant turnaround from the $440 million loss reported in the same period a year earlier.

During the earnings call, CFO Porat highlighted that the company's cloud business continued to witness strength across various geographies, industries, and products. However, the expansion rate “reflects the impact of customer optimization efforts.”

“Cloud computing is a much lumpier business than advertising, and one where Google is facing stiff competition,” said Max Willens, senior analyst at Insider Intelligence.

“While the traction it has among AI startups may bear fruit in the long run, it is not currently helping Google Cloud enough to satisfy investors.”

The company also missed on the operating income with Porat saying Google continues to “invest aggressively given the significant potential we see.”


Alphabet shares tumbled after the company reported a mixed set of results, with investors predominantly concerned about the slowdown in the cloud segment growth. On the other hand, it was Azure and AI demand that helped Microsoft deliver a strong set of figures, ultimately sending its shares higher toward a fresh record high.


Shane Neagle is the EIC of The Tokenist. Check out The Tokenist’s free newsletter, Five Minute Finance, for weekly analysis of the biggest trends in finance and technology.

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