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MicroStrategy Cuts Costs, Boosts Profits and Cash Flow in Q2

By Tim Beyers - Jul 27, 2015 at 5:10PM

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Looking ahead, new CFO will be charged with keeping margins high as marketers invest to develop interest in MicroStrategy 10.

Dashboards helps MicroStrategy users better understand key business data. Credit: MicroStrategy. 

Shares of MicroStrategy ( MSTR 7.69% ) were up 6.6% as of 4:40 p.m. ET Monday, as investors digested the impact of the company's better-than-expected second-quarter results. Here's a closer look at the Q2 totals versus Wall Street's projections:

MSTRRevenueYOY GrowthEPSYOY Growth
Consensus estimate  $127.99 million  (9.8%)  $1.51  265.9%
Q2 actual  $132.94 million  (6.3%)  $1.95  314.3%
DIFFERENCE  $4.95 million  3.5%  $0.44  48.4%

Sources: S&P Capital IQ and MicroStrategy press release.

CEO Michael Saylor didn't comment on the results in the press release, choosing instead to highlight MicroStrategy's hiring of former XO Communications executive Phong Le as the company's new chief financial officer:

We are very pleased to welcome Phong to our senior management team. Phong has strong leadership skills, operational focus, and experience in taking on strategic roles in addition to leading a company's financial functions. We believe that he can make significant contributions to MicroStrategy's strategic plan and operational goals.

What went right: Cost controls led to huge gains in cash flow. Cost of revenue plummeted 27.2%, leading gross margin to expand from 74.9% in last year's Q2 to 80.5% over the past three months. Similarly, cash flow from operations is up to $92 million for the first six months of 2015, versus just $14.4 million over the same period last year.

What went wrong: Deferred revenue didn't impress nearly as much as some investors might have liked. "Current" deferred revenue and advance payments -- i.e., income due to be recognized within the fiscal year -- fell 9.5% year over year. Deferreds related to new product license sales and product support also fell. I'd expect better numbers given the marketing push for the company's MicroStrategy 10 business intelligence and analytics platform.

What's next: MicroStrategy didn't include third-quarter guidance in its press release. Nevertheless, analysts tracked by S&P Capital IQ have the company generating $139.86 million in revenue and $1.88 a share in profit. That compares with $151.2 million and $0.36 a share in last year's Q3.

Longer term, analysts have MicroStrategy growing earnings by an average of 9.5% annually over the next three to five years. 

In the meantime, investors should pay close attention to how well new CFO Le balances the need to keep costs low while investing enough to build a global user base for MicroStrategy 10. Maintaining or even expanding gross margin while producing growth in product-related deferred revenue would be a good indicator.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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