IBM Performance Remains Troubling

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As the market has continue to rise this year, International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) shares have stayed mired among the poorest performing Dow shares. Several of its rivals have announced success with among their cloud businesses, which makes IBM’s position in the sector mediocre, if not worse.

IBM’s stock is down 13.2% this year to $144.08. The Dow is up 18.5% over the same period to 23,442.21. Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) and General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) are the only Dow components that have performed more poorly than IBM. Exxon’s shares are down 15.17% to $76.57. GE’s are off 20.44% to $25.14. This year, GE has gone through among the greatest management and earnings disasters of any large company in recent memory.

The financial results of Amazon.com Inc. (NYSE: AMZN) and Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) have made IBM’s efforts in the cloud inconsequential. Amazon Web Services revenue in the most recent quarter reached $4.6 billion, up from $3.2 billion in the same quarter a year ago. Operating income rose to $1.2 billion from $861 million.  These results have helped push Amazon’s shares up 49.3% this year to $968.

Microsoft’s shares have risen 34.0% this year to $68.93. Its overall revenue in the last quarter was $24.5 billion, up 12%. Net income was $6.6 billion, up 16%. Its cloud business performance did particularly well. CEO Satya Nadella stated:

This quarter we exceeded $20 billion in commercial cloud ARR (annual run rate), outpacing the goal we set just over two years ago, Our results reflect accelerating innovation and increased usage and engagement across our businesses as customers continue to choose Microsoft to help them transform.

IBM’s earnings include a complicated description of its cloud business, which makes it hard to analyze. Overall, its revenue for the last quarter was flat at $19.2 billion. Net income dropped 4% to $2.7 billion. Cloud revenue was $4.1 billion, up 20% compared to the same period a year ago. However, IBM also breaks out “strategic imperatives” and its “as a service annual run rate”, which obscure performance.

When IBM released earnings on October 17, Ginni Rometty, board chair, president and chief executive, said:

In the third quarter we achieved double-digit growth in our strategic imperatives, extended our enterprise cloud leadership, and expanded our cognitive solutions business.

Whatever that means, investors have continue to be anxious. Over the intervening weeks from October 17 until now, IBM’s share price continues to disappoint.