IBM posts broad Q3 revenue growth

IBM posts broad Q3 revenue growth

IBM has posted quarterly results showing 9 per cent revenue growth from last year and slight earnings growth, despite a $US320 million charge it took during the quarter to settle some claims in a lawsuit over its pension plan.

IBM's Global Financing revenue dropped 11 per cent from last year's third quarter, but all of IBM's other business lines showed revenue growth, contributing to total revenue from continuing operations for the quarter of $US23.4 billion, in line with the consensus estimate of analysts polled by Thomson First Call.

IBM had net income for the quarter of $US1.8 billion, up 1 per cent from last year's third quarter. Per-share earnings would have been $US1.17 without the lawsuit settlement charge, ahead of the $US1.14 consensus forecast of Thomson First Call. Including the charge, IBM had per-share earnings of $US1.06.

IBM's Hardware group showed the strongest growth, with revenue increasing 12 per cent to $US7.5 billion. Global Services remained IBM's most lucrative unit, with revenue of $US11.4 billion, up 10 per cent.

Servers based on processors with the x86 instruction set, such as Intel's Xeon chip, were the fastest growing component of IBM's hardware business, with revenues up 26 per cent year-over-year. This growth was driven in part by strong sales of the company's blade systems, which grew at more than 140 per cent during the quarter, according to Mark Loughridge, IBM's senior vic- president and chief financial officer.

The company's xSeries group was now emerging as a profit driver in its business, he said.

The company's pSeries Unix and iSeries minicomputer product lines did not fare as well, despite the introduction of new systems for both families based on IBM's next-generation Power5 microprocessor. The transition of iSeries customers to the new systems, in particular, was an "issue," with revenue from that product line dropping 26 per cent from last year's figures, Loughridge said.

"The iSeries transition is taking longer, I think, than we had expected," he said.

Global revenue from pSeries servers was up only 1 per cent from the year-ago quarter. Sales were particularly hard hit in Europe, where revenue from the Unix systems declined 17 per cent, driven by an elongated transition cycle, according to Loughridge.

Revenue for pSeries was up by 9 per cent in the Americas and 8 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.

The Global Services group suffered a high-profile setback in September when JPMorgan Chase cancelled the remaining five years of a seven-year outsourcing deal valued at $US5 billion, but IBM said at the time the cancellation would not affect its financials for the quarter, which ended September 30.

IBM said this week it signed $US10 billion in services contracts during the quarter and now has a backlog of $US110 billion in contracted future services. That's a slight decrease from IBM's $US118 billion backlog at the end of its second quarter.

It signed eight Global Services deals valued at more than $US100 million during the quarter, including one deal valued at more than $US1 billion, Loughridge said.

IBM's Software group increased its revenue to $US3.6 billion, up 5 per cent from last year's third quarter, with revenue for IBM's Tivoli infrastructure software growing 19 per cent and its DB2 database software growing 15 per cent. Revenue from Lotus, IBM's collaboration and messaging software, dropped 6 per cent.

"After a difficult end to the second quarter, demand rebounded in the Americas and Asia, fueled in part by an increase in large deals," Loughridge said of IBM's software business.

Overall, the company reported strong growth in the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions, Loughridge said.

"The US. had its strongest growth rate in over three years, as customers continued to invest for both efficiency and growth," he said.

China, Russia, India and Brazil were some of the fastest growing markets for IBM.

Revenue for those four countries grew more than 30 per cent through the first three quarters of 2004, totalling $US3 billion, Loughridge said.

However, revenue growth in Europe was flat, year-over-year, when adjusted for changes in currency, Loughridge said. Revenues in the UK, France, Italy, and Germany were down from last year's numbers, he said.

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