Ahead of the Bell: Microsoft CFO shift

AP News
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Posted: Nov 25, 2009 8:39 AM

Analysts cautioned Wednesday not to read too much into the coming departure of Microsoft Corp. finance chief Chris Liddell, which was announced Tuesday.

Liddell joined Microsoft in 2005, and this year led an effort to cut $3 billion from the company's costs amid the recession. The plan included Microsoft's first mass layoffs.

Liddell will step down as CFO on Dec. 1 and be replaced by Peter Klein, Microsoft said.

Collins Stewart analyst Sandeep Aggarwal in a note to investors said Liddell "has done a great job at Microsoft for the past four and half years and he now wants to take a 'CEO type' of role."

Katherine Egbert, an analyst at Jefferies & Co., also said she thinks Liddell wants to move into a CEO role. "We don't believe Mr. Liddell was forced out, nor do we think he is leaving under untoward circumstances," she wrote in a note to investors.

Egbert, who like Aggarwal has a "Buy" rating on Microsoft's shares, said Klein seems a "competent replacement" for Liddell.

Klein, 47, joined Microsoft in 2002 and currently is responsible for the books at the division that produces Microsoft Office and other business programs.

Credit Suisse analyst Philip Winslow said he is "encouraged by Microsoft's selection to replace Chris Liddell and believe that Peter Klein's track record suggests he will continue the focus on cost efficiency championed by Liddell."

He rates Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft "Outperform."