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As Collapse of IBM Continues, CEO Under Pressure

Douglas A. McIntyre

As International Business Machines Corp.'s (IBM) financial results continue a remarkable collapse, its CEO, Ginni Rometty, becomes ever more optimistic in her view of the company's future. Rometty's public comments are either a sign of self-delusion or a means to keep a job on which her grip weakens by the quarter.

Consider that IBM posted a 13.5% drop in revenue to $20.8 billion in the second quarter and that net income fell 16.6% to $3.6 billion. Measure that against her reaction:

Our results for the first half of 2015 demonstrate that we continue to transform our business to higher value and return value to shareholders. We expanded margins, continued to innovate across our portfolio and delivered strong growth in our strategic imperatives of cloud, analytics and engagement, which are becoming a significant part of our business.

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The marks of the transformation are that sales across every major IBM division fell last quarter. Rometty's excuse for results is that the company has entered new businesses that show promise:

Revenues from the company’s strategic imperatives -- cloud, analytics, and engagement -- increased more than 20 percent year-to-date (more than 30 percent adjusting for currency and the divested System x business). Total cloud revenues increased more than 50 percent (more than 70 percent adjusting for currency and the divested System x business) year-to-date, and is $8.7 billion over the last 12 months, adjusted for the divested System x business. The annual run rate for cloud delivered as a service -- a subset of the total cloud revenue -- increased to $4.5 billion from $2.8 billion in the second quarter of 2014. Revenues from business analytics increased more than 10 percent (more than 20 percent adjusting for currency) year-to-date. Revenues from mobile more than quadrupled, and social revenues increased more than 30 percent (more than 40 percent adjusting for currency), both year-to-date.

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In point of fact, the cloud computing and business analytics fields are among the most crowded of the efforts of the world's largest tech companies. In what is called the "cloud infrastructure services" sector, IBM will need to claw its way ahead of leaders Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and fight against other companies such as Oracle Corp. (ORCL) and Google Inc. (GOOGL) for a barely modest piece of what is left.

Rometty's comments try to support her case that IBM's cloud efforts can grow quickly enough to offset the rapid fall in sales from its traditional businesses. As it turns out, the results show her efforts are not anywhere close.

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