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Originally published January 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified January 24, 2008 at 8:16 PM

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Microsoft tops forecasts with 79% profit gain

Microsoft said today that its fiscal second-quarter profit topped analysts' expectations and climbed 79 percent, buoyed by rising sales...

The Associated Press; The Associated Press

Microsoft said today that its fiscal second-quarter profit topped analysts' expectations and climbed 79 percent, buoyed by rising sales of Windows-based personal computers.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, profit increased to $4.71 billion, or 50 cents a share, from $2.63 billion, or 26 cents a share, in the same period last year.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial had forecast a profit of 46 cents a share.

Revenue rose 31 percent to $16.37 billion from $12.5 billion in the year-ago quarter, ahead of the analysts' prediction of $15.95 billion in sales.

The quarter was particularly strong when compared with a year ago, when the software maker deferred more than $1 billion in revenue due to delays in getting Windows Vista, its newest operating system, to consumers.

Microsoft's "client" division, responsible for Vista, posted revenue of $4.34 billion. The company said it has sold 100 million copies of Vista since its January 2007 launch.

The business division, which includes Office, brought in $4.81 billion in sales.

Better-than-expected PC sales in the second quarter — 13.1 percent compared with last year, according to research group Gartner — helped both divisions.

Sales from the division responsible for the Xbox 360 game console and the Zune digital media player edged up just 3 percent to $3.06 billion. But the division swung to a profit of $357 million from a loss of $302 million last year.

Revenue from Microsoft's online services business, comprised mainly of online advertising sales, rose 38 percent, but the division widened its loss in the quarter to $245 million, from $118 million a year ago.

Microsoft's guidance for the coming year matched Wall Street's view. For the fiscal third quarter, which ends March 31, Microsoft said it expects to earn 43 to 45 cents a share on $14.3 billion to $14.6 billion in revenue. For the full year, it forecasts a profit of $1.85 to $1.88 a share and sales of $59.9 billion to $60.5 billion.

Wall Street currently expects Microsoft to post a profit of 44 cents a share on $14.43 billion in revenue for the quarter, and earnings of $1.81 a share on sales of $59.34 billion for the year.

Shares of Microsoft rose $1.52, or 4.6 percent, to $34.77 in extended trading after the results were released. In the regular trading session, the stock had gained $1.32, or 4 percent, to $33.25.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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