Cramer: IBM's Disastrous Quarter

 | Oct 17, 2013 | 7:50 AM EDT
  • Comment
  • Print Print
  • Print
Stock quotes in this article:












We've got it -- the new benchmark in bad: IBM (IBM).

I don't know if you could have blown a quarter as badly as IBM did if you tried. This is not the first time this has happened -- or the second, or the third. In fact, as the always-rigorous Tony Saconaghi -- one of my favorite tech analysts -- pointed this out as part of the open rebellion on the conference call: "You've missed consensus revenue expectations for seven quarters." This most recent one was by far the worse miss of them all. As Tony pointed out on the call: "If it weren't for a huge tax benefit this quarter, it would have been a very significant earnings-per-share miss." He then added that something very different is occurring at the company from what has been the case in the last seven to eight years.

All true.

Here's the problem: I felt IBM had no answer to Tony's inquiry, or to any of the others on the call. The company admitted to poor execution and a slowing in all growth markets and miserable hardware sales, but we don't know why. It is entirely possible that cloud computing is just killing these guys. They attempted to make the cloud into a positive for them by saying that the company's doing $1 billion in cloud revenue. That's pretty laughable, as it's the same amount little (CRM) is doing -- except that IBM is a company with $100 billion in revenue. The drop-off here was shocking. Sales generated in China were down 22%, and hardware revenue was down 40% in the fastest-growing market. That's a true indictment of the enterprise.

In fact, the only division I felt was positive at all was security.

That's very discouraging. This company's not even doing as well as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).

I hesitate to regard this company as a bellwether of anything, although I am sure that will occur Thursday. If anything, I think it is carrion for other, more aggressive companies. While there were currency issues that were endlessly discussed by management, I am calling this one a disaster.

I know Warren Buffett bought big into IBM, although he sure didn't have anything all that positive to say about it in his Wednesday interview with CNBC's Becky Quick. Regardless, when I look at his Berkshire-Hathaway (BRK.A) portfolio, I think this one is by far the weakest holding. I'll be shocked if he sticks with it.

As with HP, the declines here are both cyclical and secular. Unlike HP, the company seems oblivious to exactly how bad things are.

Again, just a breathtakingly bad quarter. Not much else to say.

Random musings: If you want a terrific contrast between two commerce companies, listen to American Express (AXP) vs. eBay (EBAY). American Express had a terrific quarter with good business throughout, particularly in America. Meanwhile, eBay saw a "dramatic deceleration" in its American business, worse by the week, going right into the fourth quarter. Buy AmEx, sell eBay.

Columnist Conversations

Spent a good amount of time with PayPal CEO Dan Schulman this week...and came away fully understanding why thi...
Has quietly taken a mini beating over the past few weeks. Might be worth a look on Monday given everything tha...



News Breaks

Powered by


Except as otherwise indicated, quotes are delayed. Quotes delayed at least 20 minutes for all exchanges. Market Data provided by Interactive Data. Company fundamental data provided by Morningstar. Earnings and ratings provided by Zacks. Mutual fund data provided by Valueline. ETF data provided by Lipper. Powered and implemented by Interactive Data Managed Solutions.

TheStreet Ratings updates stock ratings daily. However, if no rating change occurs, the data on this page does not update. The data does update after 90 days if no rating change occurs within that time period.

IDC calculates the Market Cap for the basic symbol to include common shares only. Year-to-date mutual fund returns are calculated on a monthly basis by Value Line and posted mid-month.