Why Microsoft Stock Is the Pick of the Magnificent Seven Litter

Stocks to buy

Over the past five years, Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) has outperformed the other six “Magnificent Seven” stocks combined, including Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) stock, one of this country’s most iconic tech companies. 

It’s hard to believe that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been the software company’s leader for over a decade, taking the job on Feb. 4, 2014. MSFT stock outperformed three of the seven Mag 7 stocks over the past five years. 

According to Morningstar.com, Microsoft’s 10-year annualized total return through May 8 is 26.92%. Most investors would gladly take this kind of long-term return. 

Five-Year Cumulative Returns (through May 9) – Magnificent Seven 

Company 5-Year Return 
Nvidia 2,002.51%
Microsoft 224.33%
Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) 976.83%
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) 274.38%
Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) 194.76%
Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META) 152.43%
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) 100.53%

Even with Tesla’s outstanding performance, Nvidia’s cumulative return outperformed the other six Magnificent Seven stocks by 79.25%, a remarkable feat. 

So the question becomes one about the next 10 years. 

If Nadella stayed for the entire decade, which is unlikely, could the MSFT stock outperform the past decade? It could. 

Here are some reasons why. 

AI and MSFT Stock

Microsoft reported Q3 2024 results at the end of April. Its Intelligent Cloud segment, which includes Azure, had revenue of $26.7 billion, 21% higher than a year ago. Azure’s revenues grew 31% year-over-year, 300 basis points higher than the analyst estimate. 

Perhaps even more critical was the seven percentage point contribution from AI products during the quarter, up from 6% in Q2 2024 and 3% in Q1 2024.   

One area where Microsoft is using AI to grow market share is with Bing search and its Edge browser. Thanks in part to Copilot’s integration into Bing and Edge, the browser now has 140 million daily active users. 

Data analytics is another area that’s becoming a more significant part of its AI business. A year ago, it launched Fabric, an end-to-end, unified analytics platform.

As Nadella said in the Q3 2024 conference call, Fabric has over 11,000 paying customers, including big businesses such as Equinor (NYSE:EQNR) and Foot Locker (NYSE:FL).    

“Fabric is seamlessly integrated with Azure AI Studio, meaning customers can run models against enterprise data that is consolidated in Fabric’s multi-cloud data lake, OneLake,” Nadella said. “And, Power BI, which is also natively integrated with Fabric, provides business users with AI-powered insights. We now have over 350,000 paid customers.”

Morgan Stanley estimates that the Intelligent Cloud segment’s revenue will grow by 20% annually through 2029, generating annual revenue of $257 billion. 

Based on a price-to-sales ratio of nearly 13.0, this segment would be valued at $3.34 trillion by 2029, $280 billion more than its current market capitalization for the entire company. 

Gaming Closing in on Windows

Thanks to the acquisition of Activision Blizzard for $75.4 billion in October 2023, Microsoft’s gaming business generated $16.48 billion in revenue in the first nine months of fiscal 2024, 38% higher than a year earlier, within $277 million of its Windows business, the company’s third-largest revenue generator. 

That’s the good news. 

The bad news is that the acquisition has to be paid for, which means job cuts are happening across the segment. In January, it announced that 1,900 people (8% of the gaming division’s workforce) would be laid off from Activision Blizzard and Xbox. Activision president Mike Ybarra left the company as part of the headcount reduction, Call of Duty general manager Johanna Faries was promoted to replace him. 

On May 7, Microsoft announced the closure of several game developer studios in the U.S., Canada, and Japan so that it could focus on its highest-impact video game titles. 

While there are arguments against closing the studios, Microsoft will do what’s best for the entire company, not just for gamers. Ultimately, xBox and Activision are for-profit businesses.     

Operating Margins Continue Rising 

Part of maintaining above-average operating margins is judiciously controlling operating expenses. That doesn’t mean they won’t increase, but they shouldn’t dramatically outpace sales growth. 

In the first nine months of 2024, its operating expenses were $44.46 billion, 4.9% higher than a year earlier, while revenues rose by 15.8%, more than 3x higher. As a result, its operating margin was 45.2%, 390 basis points higher than a year earlier. 

Thanks to year-over-year increases in gross and operating margins, its free cash flow increased by 28% to $50.75 billion. 

That’s how you run a successful business.  

While I like Nvidia and Amazon, Microsoft could be the best long-term buy of the Magnificent Seven. 

On the date of publication, Will Ashworth did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

Will Ashworth has written about investments full-time since 2008. Publications where he’s appeared include InvestorPlace, The Motley Fool Canada, Investopedia, Kiplinger, and several others in both the U.S. and Canada. He particularly enjoys creating model portfolios that stand the test of time. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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