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Microsoft Corp. beat Wall Street estimates for quarterly revenue on Tuesday, powered by a slight uptick in growth in its flagship cloud computing business as the software maker continued to benefit from a global shift to working from home and online learning.

The pandemic has accelerated a shift already under way toward cloud-based computing, helping companies such as Microsoft, Amazon.com Inc’s cloud unit and Alphabet Inc’s Google Cloud.

Revenue growth for Azure, the company’s flagship cloud computing business, was 48 per cent, up from 47 per cent in the previous quarter and ahead of Wall Street estimates of 43.45 per cent, according to consensus data from Visible Alpha.

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Microsoft has shifted to selling many of its products through recurring subscriptions, which investors like because it generates stable revenue flows. The value of Microsoft’s future recurring revenue contracts with big business customers was flat from the previous quarter and its proportion of one-time deals rose slightly after two quarters of growth.

Microsoft bundles together several sets of software and services such as Office and Azure into a “commercial cloud” metric that investors watch closely to gauge the company’s progress in selling to large businesses. Microsoft’s commercial cloud gross margins – a measure of the profitability of its sales to large businesses – was 71 per cent, compared with 66 per cent a year earlier.

Microsoft said 93 per cent of commercial cloud products were sold as subscriptions, compared with 94 per cent the quarter before. The company’s remaining performance obligations – a measure of how much revenue has been booked for the future in sales contracts but not yet formally recognized as revenue – stayed flat at US$107 billion in the fiscal first quarter but was up from US$86 billion a year prior.

Microsoft said revenue in its “Intelligent Cloud” segment rose 20 per cent to US$13 billion in the first quarter, with 48 per cent growth in Azure. Analysts had expected revenue of US$12.7 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Revenue from its personal computing division, which includes Windows software and Xbox gaming consoles, rose 6 per cent to US$11.8 billion.

The company’s revenue rose 12 per cent to US$37.2 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30, beating analysts' estimates of US$35.72 billion.

Net income rose to US$13.89 billion, or US$1.82 per share, from US$10.68 billion, or US$1.38 per share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected a profit of US$1.54 per share.

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Microsoft shares were flat in after-hours trading.

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