Microsoft beats expectations to push shares up

MICROSOFT beat its profit forecast as PC sales held up better than expected, it revealed last night, lifting its shares 2.5 per cent in after hours trading.

The results buoyed optimism around the world’s largest software maker, which is lining up a new tablet-friendly version of Windows for later this year and is looking to make a dent into Apple’s and Google’s domination of the mobile market.

Microsoft – whose shares hit a four-year high of $32.95 last month – has not said when its Windows 8 system will be released, but most in the industry expect it on devices from around October, offering an alternative to Apple’s runaway iPad.

New Windows smartphone software is expected around the same time.

The firm reported fiscal third-quarter profit of $5.11bn (£3.18bn), compared with $5.23bn, in the year-ago quarter when it posted a one-time tax gain.

Sales rose six per cent to $17.41bn, driven by strong demand for its server software products and Office application.

Microsoft shares rose to $31.87 in extended trading. The stock is up 20 per cent so far this year, outpacing gains on the Nasdaq.