You typically can have confidence in the consensus opinion. However, with the International Business Machines (IBM) third-quarter earnings report, the consensus was wrong: Big Blue just didn’t come through. Specifically, Revenue in 3Q18 was $18.8 billion, below consensus estimates of $19.1 billion. In addition, the company reported non-GAAP diluted EPS of $3.42, above consensus estimates of $3.40. However, the EPS would have missed if not for its <13% vs. 16% tax rate.
Investors reacted to the earnings report with some skittishness, sending IBM’s shares down nearly 8% in Wednesday’s trading session.
Adding insult to injury, Cantor analyst Joseph Foresi lowered his price target on IBM to $140 (from $152), while maintaining a Neutral rating on the stock. (To watch Foresi’s track record, click here)
Foresi commented, “We view a return to consistent organic growth and margin expansion as necessary for sustainable multiple expansion from present levels. IBM had flat constant currency (cc) growth. Strategic Imperatives decelerated in cc in 3Q18 and currency was a headwind after being a tailwind in the previous quarter. Margins expanded in the period. Management attributed the improvement to efficiencies in expense structure, generated partly by recent restructurings. We await better visibility on the company’s ability to consistently grow the business and scale margins.”
Guggenheim analyst Rob Cihra is also playing it safe on the sidelines, noting, “Declining software, flat services, and mainframes now about to cycle back down do not seem much of a turnaround recipe; and as IBM’s 3Q revs missed by 2%, EPS would have missed by 3% if not for a +12c tax benefit. We see the biggest negative being another downtick in Cognitive Solutions Software (revs -5%Y/Y ex-currency even worse than our -3%Y/Y estimate), which IBM is guiding to rebound Y/Y in 4QE, but we think “should” be its strongest not weakest business given big acquisitions, Watson, Analytics and Security; keeping the challenges looking structural and our rating NEUTRAL.”
Net net, Wall Street tends to side with these analysts’ apprehensive attitude toward the stock, as TipRanks analytics exhibit IBM as a Hold. Out of 13 analysts polled in the last 3 months, 4 are bullish on the stock, 7 remain sidelined, while 2 are bearish. However, with a return potential of nearly 23%, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $164.67. (See IBM’s price targets and analyst ratings on TipRanks)