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September 21, 2006

MSFT momentum building?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 9:35 AM

Microsoft employees gathered right now at Safeco Field for the company's annual meeting can probably find something to smile at despite the gloomy weather.

Since its June 13 nadir at $21.51 a share, Microsoft's stock has climbed $5.56, or 25.8 percent, to close Wednesday at $27.07. MSFT was backing off a little in early afternoon trading today, but has finally returned to where it was trading in late April, before management surprised Wall Street with news of an additional multi-billion, long-term investment that sent shares crashing.

On top of the recent gains are at least two positive financial analyst reports on the company in the last 24 hours:

Goldman Sachs' Rick Sherlund this morning reiterated his favorable take on the company with a note about the broader software industry that was also bullish on Adobe, Oracle and SAP. He wrote this about Microsoft's big product launches due in early 2007: "We expect Windows Vista to generate $1.0 billion in incremental upgrade revenues and about $800 million in increased revenues due to a mix shift to premium priced products in the first twelve months."

Sherlund has a $30 price target on the stock.

Sid Parakh, analyst at McAdams Wright Ragen, published a 28-page report on the company. He expects the strength of Microsoft's new product cycle to allay investor concerns about competition from the likes of Google and Apple: "With several new product releases scheduled over the next few quarters, we believe that the timely and successful launch of these products should have a positive impact on revenue growth in FY07 (June, 2007) and FY08 (June, 2008), helping reinvigorate investor optimism on MSFT."

Parakh has a $31 price target on the stock.

Of course, both analysts identified risks, including that the current stock price may reflect positive expectations about the product cycle and that Microsoft's longer-term challenges around competition and innovation are plentiful.

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