Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) shares were rising in premarket trading on Wednesday, up 1.8 percent, as investors weighed a batch of recent stock upgrades for the tech giant. Shares have been trading up consistently all week, and the rise came after Microsoft director Bill Gates sold 10,641,900 shares of the company’s stock on Friday, bringing in $378,213,126.
According to Ticker Report, the former chief executive sold his shares on Friday at an average price of $35.54; he now directly owns 357,989,165 shares in Microsoft. The transaction was filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission late last week, and the major sale comes as the Redmond, Washington-based company continues its CEO search.
Though Microsoft has recently endured a rocky set of quarters, certain investors are now confident about the tech company’s future prospects and what a new CEO can mean for Microsoft. As of Monday, the stock hit $35.94, coming close to the company’s one-year high of $36.43.
Microsoft’s latest earnings, released October 24, helped encourage optimism for the tech giant’s future — it reported earnings per share of 62 cents and beat analysts’ expectations of 55 cents. Microsoft’s revenue was up 15.7 percent compared to the same quarter last year, and executives also posted ambitious forecasts for the future.
For the most part, analysts agreed with the company’s forecasts. Ticker Report highlights that analysts at Evercore Partners, Cowen and Co., and Credit Agricole have all raised their ratings on its shares.
Following Microsoft’s latest earnings, Evercore analysts raised their price target on the shares from $38 to $40, and those at Cowen and Co. followed suit by raising their target from $35 to $36 with a market perform rating on the stock. Credit Agricole analysts raised their price target on the shares from $38 to $39 and now rate Microsoft an outperform.
It is still unclear who will fill current CEO Steve Ballmer’s shoes, but whomever it is, he or she will need to work diligently to continue Microsoft’s comeback effort and meet analysts’ expectations.