IBM's Crippled Earnings Forecast May Push CEO Ginni Rometty Out

Another year, another disappointment for International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM). And, based on the company’s outlook for 2016, the period of bleeding is not over. While cloud computing revenue at IBM continues to grow, the balance of the company is very deeply troubled. Long-time CEO Ginni Rometty has run low on time to demonstrate that her turnaround plans are valid.

Revenue in the fourth quarter cratered 8.5% to $22.1 billion, and for full year 2015 to $81.7 billion, off 11.9%. The down draft in earnings accelerated. Per-share earnings from continuing operations were down by 17.4% for the quarter to $4.60, and for the full year down 12.9% to $13.66.

Rometty put her traditional spin on the results:

We continue to make significant progress in our transformation to higher value. In 2015, our strategic imperatives of cloud, analytics, mobile, social and security grew 26 percent to $29 billion and now represent 35 percent of our total revenue.

We strengthened our existing portfolio while investing aggressively in new opportunities like Watson Health, Watson Internet of Things and hybrid cloud. As we transform to a cognitive solutions and cloud platform company, we are well positioned to continue delivering greater value to our clients and returning capital to our shareholders.

Unquestionably, cloud figures have improved impressively, but the balance of the business ruins IBM more with each quarter, and cloud computing may be the most competitive sector among large tech companies. IBM has to fight with industry leader Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and formidable and financially healthy companies such as Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL).

Even IBM’s advance in cloud computing cannot fill the hole in revenue that Rometty has dug. IBM’s full-year revenue in 2012 was $106.9 billion.

The weight of a CEO change falls to Michael L. Eskew, IBM’s presiding director, and its board of directors, which has 13 members other than Rometty. With IBM’s shares at a five-year low, the board members owe Wall Street a strong message that they have taken action to turn IBM around.

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