Microsoft Q3 Earnings Show Slowest Growth in Five Years

Facing a strong U.S. dollar and weakening personal computer sales, Microsoft on Tuesday reported its slowest growth in five years.

The technology giant posted a 11 percent increase in revenue to $50.1 billion for the three months ended in September, as profit fell 14 percent to $17.6 billion from a year earlier. The last time revenue growth was this slow was the March 2017 quarter; Microsoft’s revenue has since typically grown 12 percent to 22 percent each quarter.

The results were in line with what Microsoft told investors to expect and included a less favorable foreign currency environment. The war in Ukraine and the economic turmoil in Britain have strengthened the U.S. dollar, depressing revenue by $2.3 billion. Removing the currency fluctuations, Microsoft’s business grew 16 percent.

Softness in the global market for new computers, which impacts Microsoft’s lucrative Windows business, offset the strength of the company’s cloud computing services and its suite of productivity software like Word, Excel and security offerings. The company said it continued to see healthy demand in its commercial business.

“In a world facing increasing headwinds, digital technology is the ultimate tailwind, “Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Sales of the Windows operating system installed on new computers declined 15 percent, as employers who had raced to upgrade laptops and other devices during the pandemic’s work-from-home boom returned to more regular buying patterns.

Azure, the company’s flagship cloud computing product, increased 35 percent, or 42 percent without currency fluctuations. Revenue for Azure is largely driven by consumption, meaning that revenue rises the more that customers actually use the cloud offerings. The results, and recent deal announcements, show that large corporate customers are continuing to move more work to the cloud.

Microsoft has also succeeded in getting businesses to buy and upgrade subscriptions for suites of security services and products like Excel and Teams. The company raised the list prices of such product suites earlier this year and has pushed its premium offerings. In doing so, Microsoft has increased its revenue per user, which is “an enduring growth driver,” analysts at Bank of America recently wrote.

Overall revenue for Microsoft’s commercial Office 365 subscriptions rose 11 percent.

“A difficult economic environment is going to slow growth, no question, but it also gives them an opportunity to sell a really high value bundle of products,” said Brad Reback, an analyst at the investment bank Stifel.

The company is also seeing the pandemic-fueled boom in gaming slowly deflate, as sales from Xbox games fell 3 percent.