Stock Watch: Microsoft Climbs as Q3 Results Top Forecasts

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) rose 6 13/16 to 58 9/16 early Thursday after beating analysts’ estimates for the third quarter.

The Redmond, Washington-based software giant reported income before charges of $2.58 billion, or 46 cents per share, compared with $2.19 billion, or 40 cents, in the same period a year earlier. Analysts had expected the company to earn 41 cents per share.

After a charge for a required accounting change, earnings per share in the latest quarter totaled 40 cents.

“Results were solid across all businesses, led by accelerating deployments of Windows 2000 Professional in the business sector and Windows Me in the consumer arena,” said chief financial officer John Connors. “We also continued to make great progress with our server products.”

Connors added, “While we remain guarded about worldwide economic conditions, we are extremely enthusiastic about our Windows 2000 generation of server products.”

MSN.com formed a number of alliances during the quarter, notably a wireless phone venture with Sprint PCS and an Internet appliance partnership with Compaq Computer Corp.

Lehman Brothers and Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown reportedly repeated buy recommendations on Microsoft shares following the news, with Lehman putting a 12-month price target of 86 on the stock.

Microsoft is still awaiting a final ruling in its antitrust battle with the U.S. Department of Justice. The Supreme Court sent the case back to a federal appeals court last month.

In April, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled that Microsoft had violated federal antitrust laws, and in June ordered the company to split its operating systems business from its software operations.

Microsoft is appealing the ruling on several points.

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