Microsoft Profit Misses Forecast ... More Earnings

Earnings: Microsoft | Exxon | Bristol-Myers Squibb | XM Satellite | Harrah's | Kellogg

Microsoft Profit Misses Forecast

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp.(MSFT), the world's largest software maker, reported a higher quarterly net profit Thursday, boosted in part by strong sales of its business management and its database software.

Microsoft posted a net profit of $2.98 billion, or 29 cents per share, in its fiscal third quarter ended March 31, compared to $2.56 billion, or 28 cents per diluted share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 13 percent to $10.9 billion.

Excluding legal charges, Microsoft earned 32 cents a share. Analysts, on average, had forecast net earnings per share of 33 cents per share on revenue of $11.04 billion, according to Reuters Estimates.

Last month, the company pushed back the retail delivery for the new version of its Windows operating system, Vista, and business software suite Office 2007 until Jan. 2007. Analysts expect PC demand to soften in the coming quarters ahead of the upgrades.

Since the company reported fiscal second-quarter earnings on Jan. 26, the stock has risen 3 percent, broadly in line with gains on the S&P 500. Prior to the earnings release, the stock closed up 15 cents at $27.25 in Thursday Nasdaq trade.

Exxon Profit Higher On Prices

DALLAS (AP) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the world's largest oil company, reported Thursday the fifth highest quarterly profit for any public company in history, posting gains from higher oil prices that were likely to stoke the furor over outsized oil company earnings.

Despite the 7 percent gain in earnings to more than $8 billion in the first quarter, Exxon Mobil said its earnings came in below its record fourth-quarter because all three of its business -- exploration and production; refining; chemicals -- didn't perform as well.

The earnings report comes amid consumer outcry in the U.S. about soaring gasoline prices. The average retail price of gasoline in the U.S. is now $2.91 a gallon, or 68 cents higher than a year ago.

It also comes as Washington lawmakers are looking to appease consumers with various proposals to make big oil companies pay more taxes or provide consumers with some other relief.

In January, Exxon posted the highest quarterly profits of any public company in history: $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter of 2005 and $36.13 billion for the full year.

In the first quarter, net income rose to $8.4 billion, or $1.37 per share, from $7.86 billion, or $1.22 per share, a year ago. Excluding a gain on the sale of an interest in China's Sinopec, the company's year-ago profit was $7.4 billion, or $1.15 per share.

But analysts polled by Thomson Financial were looking for a higher profit of $1.47 per share for the latest quarter, and shares fell $1.02, or 1.6 percent, to $62.08 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst for Standard & Poor's, said the latest profit figure still places Exxon fifth historically among quarterly earnings. Exxon also holds the first, second and fourth spots; Royal Dutch Shell PLC has the third spot.

The company said its average sale price for crude oil in the U.S. during the quarter was $55.99 per barrel compared to $42.70 a year ago. It sold natural gas in the U.S., on average, for $8.31 compared to $6.18 during the same period one year ago.

Earnings from exploration and production of oil and gas rose to $6.4 billion from $5 billion a year ago. Refining profits fell from $1.4 billion to $1.2 billion and profits from its chemical business fell to 949 million from $1.4 billion

Revenue grew to $88.98 billion from $82.05 billion a year earlier. Higher crude oil and natural gas prices and improved marketing margins were partly offset by lower chemical margins.

Placed in perspective, Exxon's revenue for the three-month period was still greater than the annual gross domestic product of some major oil producing nations, including the United Arab Emirates ($74.67 billion) and Kuwait ($55.31 billion), according to statistics maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Exxon said it invested $4.8 billion in capital and exploration projects, a 41 percent increase from 2005.

"In the first quarter of 2006, the results of our continuing long-term investment program contributed to a 5 percent increase in production," Exxon chief executive said in a prepared statement.

Exxon also said it returned $7 billion to shareholders through dividends of $2 billion and buying back $5 billion worth of shares.

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Bristol-Myers Profit Rises 34 Percent

NEW YORK - (AP) - Drug-maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY) said Thursday its first-quarter profit rose 34 percent on slightly higher sales.

The New York-based company earned $714 million, or 36 cents a share, in the latest quarter, compared with a profit of $533 million, or 27 cents a share, in the first quarter a year earlier.

Excluding special items such as a $200 million gain from an asset sale, Bristol-Myers earned 32 cents a share, matching the consensus estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Revenue at the company, which sells blood thinner Plavix and AIDS treatment Reyataz, rose 3 percent to $4.67 billion from $4.53 billion. The revenue for the quarter were slightly higher than the $4.61 billion predicted by analysts.

XM Satellite Loss Widens

NEW YORK - (AP) - XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. (XMSR) reported a wider loss for its first quarter Thursday while revenues more than doubled as the company continued its rush to sign up subscribers.

XM, the larger of the nation's two satellite radio providers, lost $151.4 million, or 60 cents per share, in the three months ended March 31 versus a loss of $122.1 million, or 58 cents per share, in the comparable period a year ago.

Revenues climbed to $208 million from $102.6 million as the company's subscriber count swelled to 6.5 million, up 72 percent from 3.8 million at the same time a year ago.

In the most recent quarter, XM signed up 568,900 subscribers.

Analysts polled by Thomson had been expecting a loss of 55 cents per share on sales of $201.5 million.

The net average cost for adding each subscriber, a number watched closely by investors, fell to $94 from $141 in the fourth quarter of 2005. In the same period a year ago, the average cost was $90.

XM and its smaller rival Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. (SIRI) are spending heavily to sign up subscribers and programming talent to their businesses, which offer dozens of channels of talk, news and music for fees of about $13 a month.

This week XM announced an unusual agreement under which its shock jock team of Greg "Opie" Hughes and Anthony Cumia would appear on seven stations owned by CBS Corp. (CBS), which lost its own star Howard Stern to Sirius at the beginning of the year.

Opie and Anthony, who are longtime rivals of Stern, used to appear on CBS radio but were pulled from the air in 2002 after they aired a live account of listeners having sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral. XM hired them in 2004.

Harrah's Sees Net Income Rise 75 Percent

LAS VEGAS - (AP) - Harrah's Entertainment Inc. (HET), the world's largest casino operator, on Thursday said its acquisition of rival Caesars helped lift first-quarter net income 75 percent, topping Wall Street views.

Harrah's said profit rose to $182.4 million, or 98 cents per share, from $103.8 million, or 90 cents per share, in the previous first quarter. Earnings from continuing operations rose to 95 cents per share from 77 cents in the year-ago January-March period.

Gary Loveman, Harrah's chairman, president and chief executive, said the integration of Caesars created savings for the company ahead of schedule. The $9 billion acquisition of Caesars Entertainment Inc. last year was pinned as among the biggest reasons revenue surged 93 percent to $2.4 billion from $1.2 billion in the year-ago period.

Results easily topped Wall Street projections for earnings of 92 cents per share on $2.24 billion of revenue, according to analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

Loveman said the company achieved its projected $80 million first-year synergy target for the Caesars properties by the end of the first quarter — three months ahead of schedule. Looking forward, he projects the second year of Caesars ownership will yield about $180 million of synergies.

This also comes despite the loss of casino operations due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Harrah's owns casinos in both New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss., that were damaged and closed due to the storms.

The company is also moving ahead with plans for ventures in Spain, Slovenia and the Bahamas, and recently submitted a final bid for a multibillion dollar resort in Singapore.

Shares of Harrah's were trading up 30 cents in premarket activity, following Wednesday's close of $78.27 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Kellogg Earnings Ride On Strong Sales

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Kellogg Co. (K), the world's largest maker of breakfast cereal, on Thursday reported higher quarterly earnings and raised its profit outlook for the year as strong sales of new products like Eggo Cereal helped offset higher fuel, packaging and labor costs.

Net income for the first quarter ended April 1 was $274.1 million, or 68 cents per share, compared with $254.7 million, or 61 cents per share, a year ago.

Wall Street analysts had expected the company to report earnings of 59 cents to 68 cents per share with an average view of 63 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Kellogg shares closed at $45.00 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has gained 4 percent since the beginning of the year and trades at about 16.6 times analysts' average 2007 earnings estimate. That compares with a multiple of 15.5 for shares of rival General Mills Inc. (GIS) and 15.6 for Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT)

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