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Merrill Lynch analyst Tom Kraemer maintained an outperform rating on IBM (IBM) , but shifted a penny from his third quarter earnings expectation to the fourth quarter in response to Tuesday's profit warning from Computer Associates (CA) .

Sanford Bernstein

analyst Toni Sacconaghi also maintained an outperform rating on IBM and continued to back reported revenue growth of 6%, or 9% growth in constant currency. Sacconaghi, in a research note, also maintained a third-quarter earnings estimate of $1.12 a share.

Kraemer, according to a research note, raised his fourth-quarter earnings estimate on IBM to $1.50 from $1.49, but cut his third-quarter EPS expectation to $1.07 from $1.08, indicating that he expects most of the company's businesses to show quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year improvement in constant currency terms. However, Kraemer noted that he expects foreign currency issues to hurt sales.

Computer Associates, which makes software that runs on IBM mainframes, said Tuesday that it expects to earn 50 cents to 54 cents a share in the second quarter, below analysts' estimates of 56 cents a share.

The ratings come at a time when rumors that IBM, Armonk, N.Y., might preannounce lower-than-expected earnings have been circulating on Wall Street. IBM plans to release earnings on Oct. 17. A

First Call/Thomson Financial

poll of 19 analysts produced an estimate of $1.08 a share for IBM's third-quarter net income. The company earned 90 cents a share in the year-ago period.

Put options were busy on IBM Tuesday, suggesting edginess among traders about the preannouncement rumor. Options turnover surged and by the close about 15,010 calls and 41,150 puts had traded in just the October 80-150 strikes on the four U.S. options exchanges. Busiest were the October 125 puts, which jumped $6.38 to $16.25 on total interexchange volume of about 17,525 and open interest of 3,004.

In September, IBM's shares were hit after

Goldman Sachs

analyst Laura Conigliaro lowered her revenue and EPS estimates on the company, citing the weakness of the euro. Cogniliaro said she expected the weak euro to lower IBM's third-quarter revenue growth to 6.6% from 8.4% and to 9.4% from 13.9% in the fourth quarter. She kept the company on Goldman's recommended list but lowered her EPS estimates to $1.50 from $1.53 for the fourth quarter, and to $4.45 from $4.50 for 2000.

According to a First Call consensus survey, analysts expect IBM to earn $4.44 a share for the year.

IBM's stock was up 44 cents to $111 at midday Wednesday.