IBM Adds $4 Billion to Share Buyback Plan, Confirms Dividend After Red Hat Deal

International Business Machines (IBM) said Tuesday that it will buy back another $4 billion of its stock from investors, while confirming a cash dividend of $1.57 a share, just days after its biggest-ever takeover of cloud computing group Red Hat Inc. (RHT)

IBM said the extra $4 billion in buybacks will be added to the $1.4 billion left over at the end of its fiscal third quarter in September, while its dividend confirmation, which will be paid on December 10, extends a streak that goes back to 1916. 

"Our strong cash generation allows IBM to both invest in world-class innovations and to return money to shareholders," said CEO Ginni Rometty in a statement. 

IBM shares were marked 3.15% lower at $115.87, extending a decline of around 7.6% since it announced its plan to pay $190 per share, or $33 billion, for Raleigh, North Carolina-based Red Hat on Sunday.

News of the deal, which Rometty called a "game changer" for the Armonk, New York-based tech giant, sent shares past a nine-year low this week as investors question the cost it was willing to pay to jump start its move into the $1 trillion cloud computing market.

A decision from Moody's Investors Service to put IBM's A1 credit rating on review for a possible downgrade, citing a "substantial increase in leverage" ... and a "departure from IBM's historical acquisition philosophy of making small, tuck-in acquisitions that limit integration risk" also pressured shares.

Rometty told CNBC Monday that its $190 offer was a "fair price" for Red Hat, and repeated her view that she can both integrate the company, generate earnings and continue growing IBM's dividend despite the $33 billion it will lay out for the deal.

However, IBM also said it will suspend planned share buybacks in 2020 and 2021 as a result of the acquisition as it said it remains "committed to maintaining strong investment grade credit ratings" and will target a leverage profile consistent with "a mid to high single-A" grade.

Earlier this month, IBM posted weaker-than-expected third quarter revenues as cloud computer deliveries slowed and a stronger U.S. dollar weighed on international sales, complicating Rometty's uneven turnaround plans.

IBM said sales for the three months ending in September fell 2.1% from the same period last year to $18.8 billion, missing Street forecasts of $19.1 billion as cloud sales grew at around half the rate of the previous quarter.

Earnings were solid, at $3.42 per share, but slowing sales in IBM's systems division, where revenue slowed sharply from the previous quarter and cognitive software sales -- which include its Watson brand -- fell 6% to $4.15 billion. Technology Services & Cloud Platforms saw revenues fall 2% to $8.3 billion.

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