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(IBM) - Get International Business Machines (IBM) Report

said Samuel Palmisano will become chief executive March 1, replacing Louis Gerstner.

Gerstner, whose contract expires on March 1 when he turns 60, will remain chairman through 2002.

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Last May, Gerstner said Palmisano was the top candidate to replace him when he retired. Palmisano became the company's president and chief operating officer in July 2000.

Shares of IBM were down $3.63, or 3.4%, to $104.52 in midday trading on the

New York Stock Exchange.