Microsoft Executives Questioned By Shareholders

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A question-and-answer period held during a recent Microsoft shareholders meeting resulted in executives being asked to address recent stock sales by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, board member Jon Shirley, and other executives following a sharp increase in the stock a few weeks ago. (Source: Seattle PI)

One shareholder, Peter Schroeder of Seattle, said the talk out of Wall Street is that this showed a certain lack of confidence in the future of where the company is going, also noting that the stock has been slipping in recent days.

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer retorted that there's plenty of faith in the future of the company, noting that from time to time people will sell shares.

Regulatory filings show that since Oct. 31, Gates has sold about 13 million shares, worth more than $476 million. However, his number of shares sold is about the same as it has been in past quarters. With holdings worth nearly $30 billion, Gates is still the company's largest shareholder.

A few other notes from the meeting:

  • Ballmer expressed confidence in the company's growth prospects, citing industry trends he believes will be key in the coming years such as the rise of emerging markets, the shift toward software delivered as an online service and the related shift toward advertising-funded software.
  • In illustrating the importance of emerging markets, Ballmer said three years ago the company's combined revenue from Brazil, Russia, India, and China was $900 million. By the end of the current fiscal year the company expects revenue from those countries to reach almost $3 billion.
  • Ballmer also noted that the company returned $31 billion to shareholders during the past fiscal year in dividends and stock repurchases.

It was Gates' last shareholders meetings as a full-time Microsoft executive, although he said he'll remain Microsoft chairman when he goes part-time in his executive role later this year.

Gates expressed confidence in the company's leadership team.

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