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Microsoft Beat the Street, but Alibaba's Good News Wasn't Good Enough

By Motley Fool Staff - Feb 12, 2018 at 5:24PM

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Credit Microsoft's earnings win to its Azure cloud business, and the Chinese e-commerce king took a hit after delivering 35% profit growth.

In this segment of the Motley Fool Money podcast, host Chris Hill, Million Dollar Portfolio's Jason Moser and Matt Argersinger, and Hidden Gems Canada's David Kretzmann check in on Microsoft (MSFT -1.32%), which is really getting it done in the cloud, where it continues to produce blazing gains of over 90% each quarter.

But compared to its fellow tech giants, its total growth is only so-so, held back by the legacy businesses upon which it still relies for the bulk of its sales. Then the Fools consider why the market isn't cutting China's e-commerce leader the same slack it gives (AMZN -2.49%) when it comes to long-term planning and its growth arc.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Feb. 2 2018.

Chris Hill: Microsoft's third quarter profits and revenue came in higher than expected. David, Microsoft's Cloud Computing division continuing to get it done.

David Kretzmann: Yeah. The big driver there is their Azure business, which has generated 90% plus growth for 10 straight quarters, was up 98% this quarter. Microsoft, though, was still growing overall sales much slower compared to some of the other tech giants that we've talked about today. Their overall revenue this quarter was up 12%. That's because their Windows and Personal Computing division, which still makes up the bulk of their revenue, only grew 2%. But you're seeing a lot of growth with that Office and Productivity segment, the Cloud segment, as you mentioned. LinkedIn becoming a net-positive addition to sales and, increasingly, earnings. They've done a lot with the news feed there, allowing users to upload videos, different things like that, to increase engagement, which seems to be clicking. So, yeah, a lot of nice things to like here. And as the Cloud and the Productivity segments continue to become a larger portion of overall sales, I think you'll see ongoing sales growth.

Hill: Third quarter profits for Alibaba (BABA -2.02%) rose 35%, but that was not enough to keep shares of China's biggest e-commerce company from falling 8% this week. That seems a little bit like an over-reaction.

Matt Argersinger: It does. It's interesting, it doesn't seem like Alibaba is getting the same pass that Amazon would in terms of, "We're going to sacrifice short-term profits for long-term gains." And that's kind of put Alibaba is doing. They're investing a lot in brick and mortar and grocery and logistics operations. They're following the Amazon blueprint a little bit, investing a lot of capex and a lot of R&D right now into expanding the platform. But on the top line, everything is roses. Revenue was up 56%. $12.78 billion, that beat expectations. The core commerce business was up 57%. Digital Media Entertainment grew nicely, and the Cloud Computing business, which we see with all of these companies, more than doubled. So, obviously, a lot of great things happening there.

They also took a 33% stake in Ant Financial, which runs Alipay, which used to be part of Alibaba, but has now become kind of a PayPal-like business. It was separated from the company when Alibaba went public. They're reacquiring a stake in that and foregoing some royalty payments. That's the idea of, we want to be more involved with payments going forward. Although, I have to mention that Ant Financial, Alipay, they've been losing market share to Tencent and other competitors. So, who knows if that turns out to be a good business. If you like Chinese e-commerce, I would recommend looking at instead of Alibaba. Alibaba has so many moving parts. Jack Ma is a little bit of a rock star. So, go to JD. It's more of an Amazon-like business. They've already built out this impressive fulfillment center network throughout China. A little bit of a safer play, in my bet.

Hill: Is it more focused? Because as you said, Jack Ma, Alibaba, they're doing a lot of things.

Argersinger: Right, exactly. JD is really just, "We just want to be the Amazon of China. We don't want to do anything else."

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