IBM again demonstrated its skill at wringing profit from its software and services juggernauts.
The success of those divisions has made IBM Corp. one of the most-copied technology companies. It was a key reason that IBM beat analysts' net income forecasts for the third quarter and raised its earnings outlook for the full year. Neither was surprising for a company that rarely lets down its Wall Street constituents.
But some investors were left with a more unflattering impression from a different and unexpected part of IBM's report Monday.
IBM's revenue narrowly missed the average forecast, reviving questions about the company's ability to bring in enough new business to fuel its expected growth.
Global companies such as IBM face dangers on multiple fronts as the American economy struggles, debt fears threaten Europe and even some hot emerging markets show signs of cooling off. Sales to corporations and government agencies are at the heart of IBM's business model. But some fear that they may spend less on IBM products and services if demand for their products stays depressed and government budget woes continue.
The revenue miss apparently fed those fears and helped drive down IBM's stock price $7.32, or 3.9 percent, to $179.27 after the results came out. The shares had ended regular trading Monday down $3.94, or 2.1 percent, at $186.59 on a weak day for the market overall.
Most of the questions on IBM's conference call with analysts covered macroeconomic concerns. But some of the share price decline likely was caused by investors cashing in on recent gains. IBM's stock hit its 52-week high on Friday on expectations about the results.
IBM executives insist the company's focus on long-term contracts insulates it from economic swings. The company said it is ahead of its own aggressive forecasts. IBM has disclosed a goal of hitting $20 per share in adjusted earnings by 2015, a rare example of a long-term earnings target made public by a major company.
For the three months that ended Sept. 30, IBM said net income was $3.84 billion, or $3.19 per share, up 7 percent from $3.59 billion, or $2.82 per share, a year ago. Excluding one-time items, it earned $3.28 per share, 6 cents per share more than analysts surveyed by FactSet forecast on average.
Revenue rose 8 percent to $26.16 billion, slightly less than the $26.26 billion that analysts had expected.
Revenue rose in each of IBM's three biggest divisions, but more slowly than in the previous quarter.
Services revenue rose 8 percent, software revenue rose 13 percent, and hardware revenue rose 4 percent. In the second quarter, services revenue rose 10 percent, software revenue rose 17 percent, and hardware revenue grew 17 percent.
The company now expects adjusted earnings of at least $13.35 per share for the year. The previous forecast was for at least $13.25 per share. Investors have come to expect regular forecast bumps. IBM, which is based in Armonk, N.Y., has raised its full-year profit forecast in each of the last 10 quarters.
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