IBM (NYSE:IBM) is still sailing turbulent waters.
Big Blue reported third-quarter results right after Monday's closing bell, and it was a mixed bag. Adjusted earnings declined 9% year over year to $3.34 per share, still beating Wall Street's $3.30 consensus estimates. But top-line sales or $19.3 billion fell short of the $19.6 billion consensus, and IBM shares floundered after hours, trading as much as 5% lower.
Currency headwinds came in at the high end of IBM's projections for the quarter. All told, the results were soft enough to motivate a downward revision of management's full-year goals. The midpoint of IBM's adjusted full-year earnings guidance now sits at $15.25 per share, down from $16.12 per share. Projections for a "modest increase" in free cash flows have slowed down to a "relatively flat" full-year comparison.
Adjusting for currency exchange fluctuations and other unique items, IBM's technology services division held its sales to a 1% year-over-year decline while the order backlog increased by 1%. Adjusted software sales fell 3%, led by a 7% drop in operating systems revenues. Sales of continuing hardware operations dropped 2%, not counting the recent sale of IBM's x86 server business.
Geographically speaking, IBM found the market conditions difficult in the Americas and the Asia/Pacific region, but reported currency-adjusted revenue growth of 1% in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The supposed high-growth BRIC bloc saw a 7% drop in adjusted revenues.
On the upside, products and services classified as "strategic imperatives" delivered 27% of currency-adjusted sales growth. Cloud computing services led the way with a 65% boost year-to-date.
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty wanted to turn investors' attention toward what's working, while also underscoring how knee-deep in a total strategy makeover the company remains:
In the third quarter we again made progress in the transformation of our business to higher value, with strong growth in our strategic imperatives and expanded operating margins.
We are continuing to make significant investments to build platforms around analytics, cloud, mobility and security that lay the foundation for a new era of cognitive business -- where we see long-term value for our clients and shareholders.
Investors are not taking IBM's slow growth as a canary in the enterprise computing coal mine. Shares of archrivals Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) often move in tandem with each other and with IBM. This time, they remained relatively unchanged in after-hours action although their aftermarket trading volumes spiked on IBM's report. Of course, both HP and Oracle recently presented their own business updates, reducing the effect of the very high-level market updates in Big Blue's press materials.
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