Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Liveblogging the Microsoft Second-Quarter Earnings Call: A Lipstick-Free Pig

Earlier today Microsoft decided it would drop the bomb early by moving its second-quarter earnings conference call with Wall Street analysts to 8 a.m. PST, instead of 2:30 p.m. PST.

Microsoft earlier reported a sharp decline in revenues and net income, as well as layoffs of up to 5,000 employees and other cost cuts.

BoomTown, naturally, had to liveblog the Microsoft (MSFT) event.

8 a.m. PST

Could not get into call, as everyone and their mother wanted into this disaster.

Finally, the call was connected at 8:06 a.m. right in the middle of the bad news being delivered by CFO Chris Liddell, which has already begun to sink into the stock market, causing it to–um–sink even farther.

Liddell’s New Zealand accent was vaguely comforting, but it still cannot put lipstick on this pig. Down, down, down. And did we mention down?

8:09 a.m. PST

The call got handed over to Investor Relations GM Bill Koefoed.

“Adding a bit more color,” he said curiously, as he started to talk about the darkly troubling trends in the PC market.

At least Xbox 360 consoles were doing well, with six million units sold in the quarter. Too bad, it’s not a moneymaker! Well, actually, it has been a money pit, but at least the kids like it!

8:18 a.m. PST

Back to Liddell and more unhappy news on the economy, which was why he said Microsoft is not going to give guidance going forward.

“The economy has obviously declined further than we expected,” said Liddell.

Too obviously!

8:23 a.m. PST

Next up was CEO Steve Ballmer, who was also trying his best to make the bad news sound a little less bad.

But, he noted that the the econalypse was a “once-in-a-lifetime set of economic conditions.”

You can say that again, and Ballmer did.

But he soon was underlining Microsoft’s product pipeline and his bullishness on the tech sector.

“We are prioritizing, we are focusing,” Ballmer said. “[But] the pause the economy is imposing on our business will be just that.”

8:31 a.m. PST

First question was about whether Microsoft had acted quickly enough to cut costs amid the carnage.

Liddell answered this one: Of course!

Ballmer added that fixed costs at Microsoft make it hard to make better margins when revenue is declining.

But cost-cutting has now become priority one.

The next one was about the layoffs, including costs of it and if contractors are impacted.

Nope, though they will be getting cut too, said Liddell. But the 5,000 jobs announced are all just Microsofties.

Ballmer then jumped in and noted that the company would also be adding jobs, with a net of 3,000 jobs cut.

The third question was about buyback of stock, which was slowing, as execs said earlier. Wall Street loves buybacks. Also, what about PC growth?

Capital preservation was more important than ever said Liddell, noting that merger and acquisition activity will be lower in the next quarter.

As to the PC market–“a continuing or slight deterioration,” said Liddell.

The fourth question: More about the PC market and where to reset it.

Noted Ballmer: “It’s dynamic.” Which, I think, translates to “I don’t know exactly.”

The fifth question was about layoffs and costs again.

Will Microsoft cut again? Or do increasing expenses on a relative basis mean that Ballmer anticipates a rebound?

“We’re not used to down markets,” said Ballmer. “[But] our model is not for a quick rebound.”

Instead, Ballmer repeated his assertion that this was a wholesale resetting of the economy, which will build back on a lower level.

8:45 a.m. PST

GAAP earnings question. Zzzzzzz.

Next one was on whether Microsoft should commit to more buybacks of its stock instead of doing less?

Wall Street loves buybacks!

Sorry, but Microsoft was going to be more liquid going forward, said Ballmer.

The next question went back to why guidance for expenses is higher year over year, if the outlook was so bad.

Liddell noted it was a change in “momentum” of spending, which was slower.

8:50 a.m. PST

The questioner wanted to know about the annuity business versus the more volatile consumer sector.

Obviously, said Liddell, Microsoft likes regular money coming over the transom, but that could also decline in the future.

Now a question for Ballmer on what Microsoft might divest.

“I like our portfolio,” said Ballmer flatly.

The last question was about Yahoo (YHOO) and Microsoft’s ongoing talks about an alliance of some sort! Finally!

“I don’t think I have anything to say about Yahoo,” said Ballmer, after he laughed a bit with the other execs.

As he has previously noted, he still wants a search deal, said Ballmer. But not acquisition, added Liddell.

Ballmer noted that Microsoft was not an M&A company, in general.

In other words, Microsoft was still not buying Yahoo.

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