Thursday 14 November 2019

IBM revenue falls more than expected, profit forecast cut

IBM shares are down about 7pc this year
IBM shares are down about 7pc this year

IBM posted a bigger-than-expected drop in revenue and cut its full-year profit forecast, as a stronger US dollar accentuated weakness in demand from China and emerging markets.

It was the 14th quarter in a row that IBM has posted a reduction in revenue, as the world's largest technology services company gets rid of low-margin businesses, but has so far failed to make up the shortfall with newer initiatives in the more lucrative area of cloud computing.

Shares of IBM fell 4.8pc in after-hours trading to $141.95.

"This is another example of the massive headwinds that large-cap traditional tech stalwarts are seeing in this ever-changing environment, as more customers move to the cloud," FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives said.

China was particularly hard hit, with fewer big deals causing revenue from that country to fall 17pc, IBM's chief financial officer said on a conference call with analysts. Sales in Brazil, Russia, India and China combined were down 30pc.

Armonk, New York-based IBM, which gets more than half its business from overseas, said overall revenue from continuing operations was cut 9 percent by a strong U.S. dollar, which is up about 17pc from a year ago against a basket of currencies.

The company's total revenue fell 13.9pc to $19.28bn in the quarter, below analysts' average forecast of $19.62bn.

Martin Schroeter, IBM's CFO, pointed to weakness in its consulting and storage businesses for the revenue shortfall, after taking currency moves and discontinued business into account.

"I would characterize it as the consulting and systems integration business moving away from these large, packaged applications and the storage business moving to Flash and to the cloud," Schroeter told Reuters in an interview.

Flash is a speedy type of memory used in mobile phones and other types of electronic devices.

IBM lowered its full-year 2015 operating profit forecast to a range of $14.75 to $15.75 per share from $15.75 to $16.50. Analysts on average were expecting $15.68, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company is shifting away from hardware to the cloud, much like established rivals such as Oracle and Microsoft. Each is striving to boost Internet-based software and services sales to compete with and Amazon's web software unit.

In August, IBM said it would buy medical image company Merge Healthcare  in a $1bn deal and combine it with its newly formed health analytics unit, which is powered by its famous Watson supercomputer.

Revenue from what the company calls "strategic imperatives," which include cloud and mobile computing, data analytics, social and security software, rose about 17pc in the third quarter ended September 30.

Yet the new businesses have so far failed to make up for revenue lost to divestitures. The company known as 'Big Blue' has been selling low-margin businesses such as cash registers, low-end servers and semiconductors to focus on high-growth areas such as security software and data analytics, besides cloud-based services.

Up to Monday's close, IBM's shares had fallen about 7pc this year.


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