shares slipped nearly 2% Thursday, as investors continued their cautious look at the company despite its announced plan of
cutting up to 13,000 jobs.
The stock was recently off $1.23, or 1.6%, to $75.85.
The cuts weren't a complete surprise, and the stock had climbed 5.9% in the past two weeks since hitting a two-and-a-half year low of $72.01. Investors seem willing to wait for IBM to show some true momentum and the ability to outperform its peers before deciding the company is back on the right course.
"We remain neutral for the same reasons that have kept us cautious for several quarters now," wrote Robert Cihra of Fulcrum Global Partners in a morning research note. He cites weak services bookings and momentum, the expectation of deflationary pressure on IBM's stronger high-end product niches and a limited overall growth rate.
Even with the cuts, Cihra says, IBM is still in danger of missing third- and fourth-quarter earnings estimates.
Most of the benefits from job reductions won't be seen until the second half of the year, but the company will take a charge against earnings of $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion in the second quarter stemming from the cuts, which are pegged between 10,000 and 13,000 and will mostly take place in Europe.
The possibility of a restructuring became more apparent after IBM
badly missed first-quarter financial results and the company predicted it would only hit its full-year earnings target through cost savings.
On Thursday, however, IBM CFO Mark Loughridge said in a morning conference call that the company's latest plans aren't a knee-jerk reaction to the first quarter. "They support our strategic direction and, in fact, work has been under way for some time. We are reallocating resources to address market demand, on the one hand, and consolidating and reducing resources to drive efficiency, on the other."
This suggests the problems at IBM run deeper than just slicing 4% of its staff. In the past two weeks, IBM has also
boosted its dividend, raised its stock repurchase allocation, announced a couple of acquisitions and closed its sale of its PC unit to China-based Lenovo.
As for IBM's stock, it currently trades at 15.8 times this year's earnings and 14 times next year's expected earnings. The shares have traded between 15 and 20 times forward earnings during the past three years, according to David Wong, an analyst at A.G. Edwards.
The market is implying that IBM's stock is still not seen as a screaming buy. At its current valuation, investors still need the company to prove fundamentals are expanding and not contracting.