The Goldman Sachs team, led by analyst Heather Bellini has downgraded Microsoft stock as ‘Sell Now’. They believe that Microsoft’s stock will drop to $38 (currently trading around $40) within the next 12 months. They see risk to both revenue and EPS for rest of the year and also FY16 and FY17 due to poor performance from D&C licensing and Commercial Licensing divisions.
They cited the following reasons,
- Windows faces a hard comparison against last year when businesses were rushing to update old XP machines after support for XP ended.
- The all important Commercial unit, which includes sales software and services to companies and has made up 51% of Microsoft’s revenue and 66% of its profit over the last six months, faces a tough comparison because Microsoft previously raised prices dramatically on many of its most popular server products.
- The free upgrade to Windows 10 won’t bring in a lot of money for Microsoft until at least FY2016, and even then, much of it will likely be deferred and recognized slowly over time, as is typical. (The analysts note that their bearish view doesn’t include a surprise early success for Windows 10 revenue, as Microsoft hasn’t yet revealed how it will handle the accounting details of the upgrade yet.)
- Microsoft doesn’t have a lot of room to cut costs to make up for a drop in revenue, as it’s not likely to do another big layoff and needs to actually raise salaries to compete for tech talent.
- Sales of PCs overall are predicted to be flat by multiple market research reports.
- Microsoft is shifting enterprise customers away from products that are highly profitable up front like Microsoft Office, to cloud versions like Office 365, where revenue is collected over time and margins are thinner.