IBM Sings the Blue

Given that the market clobbered Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) yesterday after the company handily beat its projections, what do you think will happen to IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) today after missing its profit mark for the March quarter?

As of last night, IBM's stock was being marked down by more than $3 on news that the software, hardware, and business-services specialist posted earnings of $0.85 a share on a meager 3% uptick in revenue. The company did expense stock options for the period, but analysts who already knew that still expected Big Blue to earn closer to $0.90 for the March quarter. Wall Street was also looking for revenues to clock in at $23.7 billion -- or what should have amounted to a 7% growth spurt.

Yes, IBM was able to grow the top line in four of its five industry groups, as you can tell from the paltry 3% gain -- which would have been just 1% if not for favorable foreign currency translations. But it's nothing to write home about.

IBM knows that it's out of favor these days. It spent $3.4 billion during the quarter on share buybacks. Companies in the sector that are doing well, like Dell Computer (Nasdaq: DELL  ) , are also in the process of repurchasing shares, but IBM just can't find its rhythm these days. The stock is trading slightly lower than it was one, three, and five years ago.

It's not as if IBM isn't trying to shake things up. Last month, it announced a $1.1 billion acquisition of Ascential Software (Nasdaq: ASCL  ) , just months after it said it was selling its PC business. In other words, the company keeps inching away from its low-margin hardware roots and beefing up its higher-margin software and service sides.

These are reasonable moves, but investors have been patient for an excruciatingly long time. Results need to happen sooner rather than later for IBM.

Some links that may compute:

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz thinks that IBM -- which was originally set to report earnings next Monday -- may stand for Implosion Before Monday. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.


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