Revenue for the quarter reached $22.2 billion, up 11% compared to the same period last year, while earnings per share jumped 18% to $0.93. Admittedly, after adjusting for the weak dollar, revenue growth was far less impressive, up just 3%.
The technology giant saw particular strength, though, in its hardware segment, which boasted a revenue increase of 10% after adjusting for the currency impact. The results were driven by healthy sales of several of the company's server lines, as well as a robust showing in personal systems group, which includes notebooks and the like.
Big Blue's Global Services area likely is causing the most concern, since sales increased just 1% after currency adjustments. Global Services, which provides consulting, hosting, and outsourcing services, among others, is arguably IBM's most important segment, comprising about half of the company's revenue in the first quarter.
Investors have been closely monitoring this unit, hoping for signs of momentum in large-scale "enterprise spending." In fourth-quarter 2003, Global Services signed $17 billion in new contracts, while for this quarter, the figure was just $10 billion. Clearly, the type of upturn for which folks have been pining has not taken hold.
All this hand wringing, though, might be a bit overdone. IBM believes that its customers' infrastructures are the oldest they've been in 20 years. Solid server sales this quarter suggest that clients are beginning to update equipment and, perhaps more importantly, that IBM is gaining market share. As more new IBM hardware is put in place, Big Blue's consulting opportunities multiply.
At this stage, it's best for the firm to remain conservative on its outlook for services, given erratic spending in the last couple of quarters. Already, IBM projects second-quarter service signings will exceed the $10.7 billion achieved in the second quarter last year. The firm also indicated that a larger deal is in the works.
With these indicators, and a trailing 12-month P/E ratio hovering around 20, IBM is worth a closer look.
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Fool contributor Brian Gorman is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Ill. He does not own shares of any companies mentioned here.