IBM Corp. (IBM - Get Report) shares are set to open at a near a six-month high Wednesday, and may help boost the Dow to a record at the bell, after the group blasted past Wall Street estimates in what could be a pivotal turnaround for the tech giant.
IBM forecast sales in the final three months of this year, traditionally its strongest quarter, to come in at just of $22 billion, a tally that would snap a streak of 22 consecutive quarterly sales declines. IBM topped analysts' estimates with an 11% increase in third quarter sales at its cloud, cybersecurity and data analytics division, which came in at $8.8 billion, but still saw overall revenues fall 0.4% to $19.15 billion from the same period last year.
"Cognitive solutions has attracted a lot of our investment, and when we look at underlying performance, it captures and reflects a lot of the new strategic imperative areas we're going into," IBM CFO Martin Schroeter told analysts on a conference call last night.
IBM shares were trading 7.13% higher in pre-market trading from their Tuesday close, suggesting an opening bell price of $157.00, the highest since May 4.
However, TheStreet's Eric Jhonsa cautioned that Big Blue's high-margin software businesses accounts for around half its total operating profits, and their underperformance relative to the software operations of many other IT giants is a big reason why the company's sales and cash flow have been pressured for so long.
"IBM's Q3 report doesn't necessarily mean it has put an end to its software share losses, but it does suggest the company made some genuine progress in that direction last quarter," Jhonsa noted. "Moreover, the report was accompanied by some encouraging numbers for IBM's mainframe and cloud services operations, and a little more transparency than usual about which businesses are and aren't doing well."
IBM reported Q3 revenue of $19.15 billion (nearly flat annually) and adjusted EPS of $3.30, beating consensus analyst estimates of $18.61 billion and $3.28. The company reiterated its full-year guidance for adjusted EPS to total "at least" $13.80, and for free cash flow (FCF) to be "relatively flat" compared with a 2016 level of $11.6 billion.
In addition, on the earnings call, CFO Martin Schroeter suggested revenue in seasonally strong Q4 will be about $2.8 billion to $2.9 billion higher than in Q3.
That implies revenue of $21.95 billion to $22.05 billion, slightly above a $21.85 billion consensus and implying an end to the company's 22-quarter streak of annual revenue declines. Helping IBM's sales out a bit: The company is now seeing a slight forex tailwind -- it got a 1% boost in Q3 -- after many quarters of forex being a headwind.
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