- Shares of Microsoft dropped during a broader tech rally Wednesday after UBS downgraded the stock to neutral from buy.
- UBS analyst Karl Keirstead said the latest round of field checks into the business lowered the bank's confidence in the stock.
- Keirstead said Azure is facing "steep growth deceleration."
Analyst Karl Keirstead downgraded Microsoft to neutral from buy, writing that the latest round of field checks into the business lowered the bank's confidence in the stock. Keirstead pointed to concerns at Azure, Microsoft's cloud computing platform, and Office 365, the company's family of productivity software.
The analyst said Office 365, which has been a "remarkably steady machine of late," could see slower revenue growth in 2023, while Azure is entering a "steep growth deceleration" that could be worse in 2023 and 2024 than investors are expecting.
Microsoft provides year-over-year growth for Azure and other cloud services but doesn't give a dollar figure, nor does it specify how much of the growth comes just from Azure. The Azure and other cloud services segment also includes, among other things, enterprise mobility and security, or EMS, tools that can be sold separately.
Cloud rival Google put together an estimate of Microsoft's Azure business, based on a leaked Microsoft document and some extrapolation of other market data. The Google analysis, which CNBC viewed last month, shows Azure ending the 2022 fiscal year with an operating loss of almost $3 billion, narrowing from a loss of more than $5 billion the prior year.
— CNBC's Michael Bloom contributed to this report.