Ignore Microsoft earnings and buy the stock, analysts say


Microsoft reports second-quarter earnings after the bell Tuesday, and though some analysts predict the bottom line may come in light, they think the stock is a buy.

The reason: The company's cloud business is gaining momentum, several said.

"We believe its best cloud days are ahead given positive checks from the field around solid uptake of key cloud products (e.g., Office 365, Azure), which we believe were stronger than Street expectations in F4Q, and as Microsoft looks to strike the right balance of growth and profitability around its cloud endeavors with solid momentum heading into FY16," FBR Capital Markets' Dan Ives said in a note Friday.

Ives' firm maintained its "outperform" rating and a price target of $53 a share.

Frederick Grieb, executive director at Nomura Securities, said in a Jul 15 note that "as consumers look increasingly to the cloud, we believe Microsoft can leverage its existing relationship with with enterprise customers to sell more premium workloads and services in the cloud."

Nomura reiterated its "buy" rating on the stock with a price target of $55 per share. It was trading around $46.65 on Monday afternoon.

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Wall Street expects the behemoth from Redmond, Washington, to report profits per share of 56 cents on revenue of $22.05 billion, according to a Thomson Reuters consensus estimate.

The company has been undergoing a shift in its core business, moving from PCs to the cloud, since Satya Nadella was appointed CEO on Feb. 4, 2014. Microsoft shares have risen over 4 percent since he took over.

"They are evolving … and becoming a more broad tech company," Katherine Egbert, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, told CNBC. "I'm very optimistic about the company moving forward."

"You've got to remember it's a very big company," Egbert said.

Nevertheless, she added that the company's earnings results will likely be weighed down by declining PC sales. "People reflexively think of Microsoft as PCs," she said.

Ives agreed. "They're facing a brutal PC market," he told CNBC. "The biggest headwind Nadella and Microsoft are facing is this sluggish PC market."

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The company's recent write-down of its Nokia phone business could also weigh on its near-term stock performance, but will help them moving, he said.

"Overall, with Nadella making the tough but smart move, in our opinion, to 'rip off the Band-Aid' in terms of the Nokia acquisition/write-down, we believe Microsoft's laser focus on software versus hardware with a massive product cycle in its back pocket leaves it well positioned to enter the "golden age" of cloud computing with Windows 10 front and center as a major potential catalyst," he said.

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On July 8, Microsoft said it planned to cut up to 7,800 jobs at Nokia and take a $7.6 billion write-down.

"We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem including our first-party device family," Nadella said in an email.

Nomura's Grieb also said that investors will eye Microsoft's operating expenses following the write-down and how big of a headwind the strong dollar has been for the company.

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Nevertheless, Egbert said, "traditionally, they've been very successful in hedging" against currency headwinds.

The dollar index has risen about 10 percent in 2015 and has soared more than 20 percent in the last year.

Disclosures: FBR Capital Markets and Piper Jaffray act as market makers for MSFT.