Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

IBM Reports Earnings Today: Here’s What to Expect

IBM will report its fiscal second-quarter earnings today, after the close of trading on the New York Stock Exchange. It will be the first time it reports results as a century-old company, and while its long term success combining hardware and software sales with IT services and consulting is turning out to be the envy of other large tech companies, the question is, how long can Big Blue keep up the momentum?

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expect IBM to report sales of $25.35 billion and a per-share profit of $3.03. Analyst Chris Whitmore of Deutsche Bank Securities says, in a note to clients today, that he expects sales that are slightly above the consensus at $25.9 billion, which would amount to growth of more than nine percent over the year-ago quarter, and earnings of $3.01 or slightly below.

Whitmore says that checks of IBM’s sales and distribution channels indicate that demand remains strong for IBM’s mainframe systems as well as servers running its Power Architecture chip, and he says it’s taking meaningful share away from Oracle’s UltraSparc business, the line of servers Oracle absorbed when it acquired Sun Microsystems last year.

The service business should turn in a beefy quarter on the heels of new contract wins. Expect service revenue to come in line with previous forecasts of $12 to $13 billion, Whitmore says, with help from a favorable environment for foreign currencies.

That’s not to say there aren’t worries: Whitmore points out that IBM announced only five deals during the quarter, which is half as many as in the year-ago quarter. It’s also been disclosing less information about each deal, and only one — with India Infoline — was north of $50 million. “IBM’s services bookings figure is the biggest wild card this quarter due to the limited data,” he writes. Still, he expects it to track in line with prior forecasts, mainly because several five- and 10-year deals have been announced, even though their size hasn’t been disclosed.

We suspect consensus bookings expectation is $12B to $13B for the June Q and believe IBM is tracking in line with this estimate with solid long-term signings, as several multi-year deals (five and 10 years) were announced (although not sized).

Even so, Whitmore expects no change to IBM’s confident prediction that it will deliver $20 per share of earnings in 2015, and that implies annual growth of between 11 and 12 percent, which for now doesn’t seem unreasonable. As usual, all eyes will be looking for any hint that Big Blue is throttling back on its shorter-term guidance.

IBM has been a fairly solid performer this year, having seen its share price increase by more than 19 percent since the start of the year, beating both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Standard & Poor’s 500. Its shares closed Friday at $175.54, up $1.31, but were trading lower in premarket action this morning. We’ll see how it all turns out later in the day. See you then.


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