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Has IBM Finally Gotten Cheap?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I felt bit vindicated upon learning Tuesday that Credit Suisse had downgraded IBM (IBM - Get Report), while citing concerns over -- among other things -- the company's "organic" growth."

It wasn't that I was happy about this "new discovery." But I recall being proclaimed as "public enemy No.1" upon my asking three months ago, "At what point does IBM become overrated?"

It wasn't meant as a slight against the tech giant. After all, there's no debate that IBM has earned every bit of respect that it gets. But I was nevertheless annoyed by the apparent double-standard under which the company operates.

I won't argue that IBM continues to be a very profitable company. But I'm constantly in awe of the fact that despite IBM's lack of revenue growth over the past couple of years, the company's never really lost its bellwether status on Wall Street. It's as if the company is immune to criticism.

This is despite having spent more than $16 billion over the past five years in acquisitions, trying to grow the top line. It hasn't worked. Nor has it seemed that Wall Street has cared.

The stock, meanwhile, which has never really been cheap was posting gains of more than 150% during that span. Nor did shares of IBM ever fall more than 15% over the past twelve months. This is even though rivals like Salesforce.com (CRM), which has done an excellent job building itself into a leading software-as-a-service (SaaS) business, was winning market share from IBM.

By contrast, Apple (APPL), which, had posted exceptional growth during that same span, has had its valuation cut by almost in half from a high of $705 to a low of $385. Everyone was somehow ready to bury Apple but not IBM.

I'm not blaming IBM for this, though. But still, I felt it was time to draw attention to these fundamental inequalities. And after IBM's second-quarter earnings report, I believe investors have finally gotten the memo; Big Blue needs to perform better for these shares to make sense.

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MSFT $41.62 0.00%
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