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Microsoft marks record year at annual meeting as it rivals Apple for title of most valuable U.S. company

BELLEVUE, Wash. — Microsoft couldn’t have picked a better time for its annual gathering of shareholders.

The tech giant is coming off a record year, and its momentum has continued into its 2019 fiscal year. Today — as Microsoft continues to trade the title of most valuable U.S. company back and forth with Apple — the company hosted shareholders for its annual meeting a short drive from its Redmond headquarters.

The meeting was notable in part for how run-of-the-mill the company’s rebound has become. There was no reference to Microsoft’s milestones in market value or stock price, by executives or shareholders. In years past, when the company’s shares were stagnating, Microsoft’s stock and Wall Street’s opinion of the company were recurring subjects of criticism for shareholders asking questions.

There were also no major initiatives on the shareholder ballot this year. Microsoft’s board size will remain at 14, after several new members joined in 2017, such as LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Pepsi CFO Hugh Johnston, both of whom were in the audience along with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and other members of the board.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and CFO Amy Hood kicked off the meeting. Hood ran through the company’s financials in 2018, including 56 percent growth for its commercial cloud division, hitting $23 billion in annual revenue. That is ahead of a self-imposed goal of $20 billion in annual revenue for the year.

Nadella gave investors a high level overview of the company’s core values. In an era where tech giants have been hit with scandal after scandal related to privacy and personal data, he reiterated the company’s focus on security and privacy, which he called a “fundamental human right.”

Artificial intelligence has been a big focus for Microsoft, and it is infusing the technology into many of its products and services. However, Nadella says the company recognizes the need to be responsible in how it develops and deploys AI.

“As we make advancements in AI we are asking ourselves the tough question — not what can computers do, but what should they do,” he said.

Shareholders will also get to weigh in on executive compensation, though the “advisory vote” is non-binding. Last year, Nadella’s total compensation was $25.84 million, more than $5 million over last year, as several Microsoft businesses hit important milestones.

GeekWire is on-site at the meeting in Bellevue and will have additional updates. Microsoft streamed the meeting online as well.

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