Updated from 9:52 a.m. to include comments from S&P Capital IQ analyst Scott Kessler.
The company, which reported third-quarter earnings Monday night, cut its 2015 earnings forecast for the third time this year after it said foreign exchange continues to be an enormous issue, and weakness in software margins is eroding faith in the company's long-term business plan.
"We saw a 9-point impact on revenue from foreign exchange and in the fourth quarter, we expect it to be 5 points," Chief Financial Officer Martin Schroeter said in an interview on Monday evening. "We expect EPS headwind year-over-year to be about $1 billion in pre-tax income, which equates to around 80 cents."
IBM earned $3.34 a share on $19.28 billion in revenue, compared to average estimates of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters of $3.30 a share on revenue of $19.62 billion. The company said it now expects to earn between $14.75 and $15.75 a share in 2015, down from a prior outlook of between $15.75 and $16.50 a share.
Shares have fallen more than 18% over the past 12 months, with the stock plummeting another 5% on the back of the weak third-quarter report. For investors, it's been a bumpy ride, as IBM continues to place greater importance on its five key strategic areas -- cloud, data analytics, social, mobile and security -- in a transition that has not come without its hiccups.
"I think our investor base understands the transformation we're going through," Schroeter said. "We've returned capital via dividends and buybacks. We think the right thing to do is stick to our plan by investing in the strategic imperatives and returning cash to shareholders."
IBM hopes the five strategic areas will generate $40 billion in annual revenue by 2018. Schroeter did not provide updated guidance, but said IBM would probably do so at its next investor day.
During the third quarter, those five areas saw 27% year-over-year growth, excluding the effects of the U.S. dollar, and growth of 17% on an as-reported basis, though that was down slightly from the second quarter.
Here's what analysts had to say following the report:
Jefferies analyst James Kisner (Underperform, $125 PT)
"Q3 revenues were soft, and IBM also reduced 2015 EPS expectations driven by weak transactional business in Software and a failure to drive higher value sales in GBS. We believes these weak results and guidance epitomize our concern that IBM faces a very tough transition
as customers increasingly invest in cloud and as-a-service offerings. Reiterate Underperform."
BMO Capital Markets analyst Keith Bachman (Market Perform, $155 PT)
"We are maintaining our Market Perform rating and lowering our target pricefrom $165 to $155. We believe that IBM faces a long transition driven by pressure in legacy business units/products that are greater than the impact of strategic imperatives. Moreover, this quarter we saw meaningful weakness in software margins. We note that both SAP and Oracle have experienced pressure in gross and operating margins as they began the transition from license/maintenance software models to SaaS/subscription based economic relationships. We believe that IBM has about 5% of its software revenues from SaaS/subscription revenues, and thus IBM could face ongoing software revenue and margins pressures. We see no reason to be more constructive on the shares at present."
Credit Suisse analyst Kulbinder Garcha (Underperform, $125 PT)
"IBM posted another mixed quarter for F3Q15, with revenues of $19.3bn, again missing expectations, and EPS of $3.34, helped by lower tax rate. We note that PTI came in at $4.0bn in line with CS and consensus. The company reduced Q4 and FY15 EPS sizably versus expectations, which we had previewed as being unrealistic. While the rest could be welcomed, our concern is that there remain continued declines in revenue and EPS to come. We believe the secular and structural challenges that IBM faces remain, and specifically we see limited improvement both services margins and software growth. We adjust our EPS estimates for FY15/16 to $14.91/$14.03 from $15.56/$14.66, and see a painful multi-year turnaround ahead."
Drexel Hamilton analyst Brian White (Buy, $170 PT)
"We continue to believe IBM represents an attractive contrarian play for investors given that the sell-side analyst sentiment around IBM remains near a 20 year low, the stock has underperformed the S&P 500 Index by 81% since the end of 2011 and we believe the operating profit cycle has bottomed. Moreover, the stock trades at less than 10x our CY:16 EPS projection and sports a 3.5% dividend."
S&P Capital IQ analyst Scott Kessler (Buy, $168 PT)
"We lower our 12-month target by $10 to $168. The S&P 1500 IT Sector recently had a '15 P/E of 16X and a P/E-to-growth (PEG) ratio of 1.1. Applying these, more heavily weighting the P/E output, given IBM's less clear growth prospects, results in our target. We also lower our EPS estimates for '15 to $15.11 from $15.70 and '16 to $15.26 from $16.08. Revenues from continuing operations fell 14% as reported, but declined only 1% adjusting for forex and a divestiture. Despite gains from "strategic imperatives," we see challenges. We think the 9X P/E and 3.7% dividend are appealing."