(Bloomberg) -- IBM’s profit narrowly topped analysts’ estimates last quarter after a lower tax rate curbed costs and helped the company weather a persistent slump in demand.
Adjusted earnings, excluding some items, fell 17 percent from a year earlier to $4.84 a share, International Business Machines Corp. said in a statement Tuesday. Analysts had forecast $4.81 a share on average, a forecast that’s come down almost 10 percent in the past three months. IBM’s operating tax rate was 14.7 percent in the quarter, a decrease of 7.1 percentage points from the year earlier period.
Fourth quarter revenue declined for the 15th quarter straight to $22.1 billion, which met the average analyst expectation. Revenue from the software business fell 11 percent to $6.8 billion.
IBM dropped 1.5 percent to $128.11 Tuesday in New York, hitting it’s lowest price in more than five years. The shares were down 0.7 percent following the release of the results.
IBM is struggling with a multi-year transition that has sent the stock tumbling, losing more than 30 percent of its value in the last two years. Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty is working to drive growth by focusing on newer operations -- including cloud computing and data analytics -- bundled up in what the company calls strategic imperatives.
Investors and analysts have been waiting for the new businesses to help IBM return to sales growth, which some expect to happen this year. Rometty has countered investor concerns about revenue by emphasizing that the new businesses are higher in value and more profitable.
“Growth has been like ‘watching grass grow’ as these large, traditional IT vendors face a Kilimanjaro-like climb in their quest for success in this ever-changing IT landscape,’’ Daniel Ives, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets & Co. wrote in a note before the results. For enterprise tech stalwarts like IBM, there are “glimmers of opportunity in M&A for 2016 and beyond.”
The strong dollar crimped sales by 7 percentage points, more than the forecast for about 5 percentage points IBM made in October.
The company exceeded the low end of its forecast for full- year earnings at $14.92 a share, after cutting the range to $14.75 to $15.75 in the third quarter. That was in line with the average analyst estimate. IBM reported full-year sales of $81.7 billion.
Full-year revenue for the products and services labeled strategic imperatives grew 16 percent to $28.9 billion, the same rate as the previous year. The strategic imperatives now make up more than a third of IBM’s revenue. The company sees these products and services reaching $40 billion in revenue and comprise 40 percent of total sales by 2018.
As IBM seeks to return to revenue growth, it faces a number of headwinds in 2016. Amazon.com Inc., Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. will probably cut prices of their cloud computing services, which would pressure IBM’s cloud sales, according to Bloomberg Intelligence’s 2016 technology outlook. IBM also faces more competition and a possible price war in legacy IT services, including enterprise resource planning projects, as businesses increasingly divert technology expenses to cloud applications, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Anurag Rana.
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