International Business Machines Corp IBM delivered fourth-quarter 2018 non-GAAP earnings of $4.87 per share, which beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $4.81 per share. However, earnings per share (EPS) decreased 5.9% from the year-ago quarter. The year-over-year decline in EPS can be attributed to higher tax rate.
Revenues of $21.76 billion were almost in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $21.74 billion and declined 3.5% on a year-over-year basis. At constant currency (cc), revenues dipped 1%. The year-over-year decline can primarily be attributed to currency fluctuation and headwinds from IBM Z product cycle.
Notably, IBM stated that signings surged 21% on cc basis to $15.8 billion. Services backlog declined 1% year over year and came in at $116 billion.
Shares of IBM have lost 25.9% year over year, compared with the industry 's decline of 21.5%.
Geographic Revenue Details
Revenues from Americas were down 4%, reflecting the headwind from the IBM Z product cycle. However, continued growth in Latin America was a positive.
Europe, Middle-East and Africa increased 2% from the year-ago quarter mainly due to growth in Spain, Germany, Italy and the U.K.
Asia-Pacific revenues declined 1% on a year-over-year basis with modest growth in Japan.
Strategic Imperatives Growth Continues
Strategic Imperatives (cloud, analytics, mobility and security) grew 5% at cc from the year-ago quarter to $11.5 billion. Excluding IBM Z product cycle impact Strategic Imperatives grew 11% year over year.
Security revenues surged 17% (excluding IBM Z product cycle impact) and declined 3% on cc basis. On a trailing 12-month basis, Strategic Imperatives revenues were $40 billion, up 9%.
Cloud revenues surged 6% from the year-ago quarter to $5.7 billion and 19% (excluding IBM Z product cycle impact). The annual run rate for cloud as-a-service revenues increased 21% at cc on a year-over-year basis to $12.2 billion.
Cloud revenues of $19.2 billion on a trailing 12-month basis increased 12% year over year.
Cognitive Revenues Surge
Cognitive Solutions' revenues-external increased 2% year over year (on cc basis) to $5.5 billion. Revenues from Cognitive Solutions (including solutions software and transaction processing) increased primarily due to growth in solutions software, including analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).
Segmental revenues pertaining to Strategic Imperatives and Cloud increased 9% and 5%, respectively. Cloud as-a-service revenue annual run rate was $2 billion.
Solutions Software includes offerings in strategic verticals like health, domain-specific capabilities like analytics and security, and IBM's emerging technologies of AI and blockchain. The segment also includes offerings that address horizontal domains like collaboration, commerce and talent. In the reported quarter, Solutions Software revenues increased 3% year over year.
IBM stated that the integration of AI into offerings like customer experience analytics in commerce domain helped SaaS signings to grow in double digit in the reported quarter.
Transaction Processing Software includes software that runs mission-critical workloads, leveraging IBM's hardware platforms. Revenues were up 1% on a year-over-year basis.
IBM witnessed growth in industry verticals like health, key areas of analytics and security in the quarter. Watson Health witnessed broad-based growth in Payer, Provider, Imaging and Life Sciences domains.
During the fourth quarter, IBM expanded partnership with Vodafone Group. Per the deal, IBM's advanced hybrid cloud platform, AI, Internet of Things ("IoT") capabilities will aid Vodafone Business with digital transformation initiatives.
IBM stated that analytics performed well in the quarter, driven by data science offerings and IBM Cloud Private for Data offering.
Security growth was driven by offerings in orchestration, data security and endpoint management.
In blockchain, IBM announced addition of several new clients during the quarter, which includes "work with Smart Dubai on the Middle East's first government-endorsed blockchain platform." The company also unveiled an on-prem offering during the reported quarter, the IBM Blockchain Platform for IBM Cloud Private. Several new deal wins is also aiding IBM to strengthen its foothold in blockchain technology.
Global Business Services Revenues Increase
Revenues from Global Business Services-external segment were $4.3 billion, up 4% from the year-ago quarter (up 6% at cc). The year-over-year increase was primarily due to growth across all three business areas namely consulting, application management and global process services.
Segmental revenues pertaining to Strategic Imperatives grew 14%. Cloud practice surged 34%. Cloud as-a-service revenue annual run rate was $2.1 billion.
Application Management revenues increased 4% from the year-ago quarter. Global Process Services revenues climbed 5%. Moreover, Consulting revenues increased 10% year over year, driven by strong performance from IBM's digital business.
Technology Services & Cloud Platforms: Revenues Dip
Revenues from Technology Services & Cloud Platforms-external decreased 3% from the year-ago quarter (flat at cc) to $8.9 billion. Segmental revenues pertaining to Strategic Imperatives advanced 13%, driven by hybrid cloud services. Cloud surged 22% from the year-ago quarter. Cloud as-a-service revenue annual run rate was $8 billion.
Integration Software increased 4% from the year-ago quarter. During the reported quarter, more than 100 companies around the world selected IBM Cloud Private offering. Infrastructure Services revenues were flat on a year-over-year basis.
Technical Support Services revenues decreased 3% from the year-ago quarter.
Power & z14 Drive Systems Revenues
Systems revenues decreased 21% on a year-over-year basis (down 20% at cc) to $2.6 billion, primarily owing to impact of the IBM Z product cycle. Segmental revenues pertaining to Strategic Imperatives plunged 22%, while Cloud revenues declined 31%.
IBM Z revenues decreased 44% year over year. However, MIPS capacity has increased around 20%, driven by broad-based adoption of the z14 mainframe.
Power revenues increased 10% from the year-ago quarter. The upside was mainly due to Linux and robust adoption across the latest POWER9-based architecture.
During the fourth quarter, IBM completed the launch of its next generation POWER9 processors for midrange and high-end systems that are designed for handling advanced analytics, cloud environments and data-intensive workloads in AI, HANA, and UNIX markets.
IBM also introduced new offerings optimizing both hardware and software for AI. Management believes that products like PowerAI Vision and PowerAI Enterprise will help drive new customer adoption.
However, storage hardware revenues declined owing to weak performance in the mid-range end, partially offset by strong growth in All Flash Arrays. IBM stated that pricing pressure in the immensely competitive storage market is hurting revenues. The company announced its new FlashSystems with next generation NVMe technology during the reported quarter.
Operating Systems Software revenues declined 3%, while Systems Hardware slumped 23% from the year-ago quarter.
Finally, Global Financing (includes financing and used equipment sales) revenues decreased 11% year over year and 9% at cc to $402 million.
Non-GAAP gross margin remained unchanged from the year-ago quarter at 49.5%. The gross margin benefited primarily by 190 basis points (bps) expansion in services margin. However, unfavorable mix in IBM Z product cycle fully offset this expansion.
Operating expense declined 5.3% year over year, due to realization of acquisition synergies and improving operational efficiencies. IBM continues to invest in rapidly growing fields like hybrid cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), security and blockchain.
Pre-tax margin from continuing operations expanded 50 bps on a year-over-year basis to 23.1%.
Cognitive Solutions and Global Business Services segment pre-tax margins expanded 290 bps and 520 bps, respectively, on a year-over-year basis. However, Technology Services & Cloud Platforms segment pre-tax margin contracted 20 bps.
Non-GAAP operating margins from continuing operations contracted 90 bps and came in at 20.3%.
Balance Sheet & Cash Flow Details
IBM ended fourth-quarter 2018 with $11.99 billion in total cash and marketable securities compared with $14.70 billion at the end of third-quarter 2018. Total debt (including current portion) was $45.8 billion, down from $46.9 million from the previous quarter.
IBM reported cash flow from operations (excluding Global Financing receivables) of $7.3 billion and generated free cash flow of $6.5 billion in the quarter under review.
In the reported quarter, the company returned $3.5 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases. The company returned more than $10 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases for the full fiscal year.
At the end of the year, the company had $3.3 billion remaining under current buyback authorization.
Fiscal 2018 Highlights
IBM reported fiscal 2018 non-GAAP earnings of $13.81 per share, where as revenues came in at $79.6 billion, up 1% each year over year.
Revenues from Cognitive Solutions, Global Business Services, Technology Services & Cloud Platforms, Systems and Global Financing came in at $18.48 billion, $16.82 billion, $34.46 billion, $8.03 billion and $1.59 billion, respectively.
IBM expects non-GAAP EPS forecast for 2019 to be at least $13.90. The Zacks Consensus Estimate is currently pegged at $13.86.
IBM still anticipates 2019 free cash flow of $12 billion.
Zacks Rank & Stocks to Consider
IBM currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).
Few better-ranked stocks in the broader technology sector are STMicroelectronics N.V. STM , Marvell Technology Group Ltd. MRVL and Twitter, Inc. TWTR , all flaunting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank stocks here .
Long-term earnings growth rate for STMicroelectronics, Marvell and Twitter is currently pegged at 5%, 9.4% and 22.1%, respectively.
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