Big Blue – International Business Machines (IBM) – just delivered a duo of impressive back-to-back quarters with Wall Street applauding the results. This pair of consecutive quarters has elevated the stock and is now testing its 52-week high. These results solidify IBM’s long turn back to growth after posting revenue declines for 20-plus consecutive quarters. IBM has accomplished this nascent pivot back to growth via focusing on high-value faster-growing business segments while embracing the future of technology with AI and hybrid cloud architecture (i.e., Red Hat acquisition). Investors are ostensibly being appeased with the blended approach of M&A, realigning it business mix to current and future trends, maintaining its dividend payout and continuing to buy back shares until the Red Hat acquisition closes. IBM’s stock has been on an upward trend after investors decided to move past its initial displeasure of announcing its Red Hat acquisition when shares were sold-off and traded down to ~$108. IBM's executive leadership has set the growth and value narrative, and investors are quickly realizing the value that Red Hat brings to the table while washing away fears that IBM overpaid for the $34 billion acquisition. From the $108 dip, IBM has been in a position of strength and has broken out past the $150 level after its recent Q2 2019 earnings. Long-term imperatives are beginning to bear fruit in emerging high-value segments that has fundamentally changed its business mix while evolving its offerings to align with new age information technology demands. The Red Hat acquisition will augment its transition away from its dependence on legacy businesses to the future of hybrid cloud, artificial intelligence, and analytics. IBM presents a compelling long-term opportunity with a 4.3% dividend yield, P/E ratio of ~11, share buyback program, and continuously acquiring companies to drive the business into the future.
Q1 2019 + Q2 2019 Earnings – Growth Narrative
IBM reported Q2 earnings, and investors applauded the results by lifting the stock immediately post-earnings. IBM reported EPS of $2.81 and revenue of $19.61 billion, which was a -4.2% year-over-year decline while missing analysts’ targets. IBM shares quickly rose near its 52-week, breaking out to $150 per share. The company laid out its growth narrative and Red Hat acquisition catalysts.
“In the second quarter, we continued to grow in the high-value areas of the business, led by a strong performance across our Cloud and Cognitive Software segment,” “With the completion of our acquisition of Red Hat, we will provide the only true open hybrid multicloud platform in the industry, strengthening our leadership position and uniquely helping clients succeed in chapter 2 of their digital reinventions.” - Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president, and chief executive officer
“We maintained our momentum in the second quarter, again expanding gross profit margin and growing free cash flow, driven to a great extent by our increasing mix of high-value offerings for clients,” “On August 2, we will discuss how the acquisition of Red Hat will accelerate IBM's revenue growth, contribute to our high-value model and enhance our free cash flow generation going forward.” - James Kavanaugh, IBM senior vice president, and CFO
Paradoxically, IBM has slipped back into a revenue contraction in its last two quarters; however, the stock is challenging its 52-week highs. I think there’s a lot to like moving forward. There’s a reassurance that the dividend is safe, stabilizing revenues and a lot of shots on goal for future growth especially with Red Hat coming into to fray and strategic imperatives becoming a larger segment of IBM’s overall revenue pie as this is a higher growth business (Figure 1).
Figure 1 – Highlighting IBM’s Q2 2019 results
Future Blockchain Imperative
A potential growth driver that seems to be conspicuously missing from the earnings slides and discussions for future revenue is blockchain. I think IBM has a new frontier of growth in the nascent blockchain technology as the company is a first-mover in this promising, emerging technology. IBM’s enterprise blockchain solutions will be a substantial growth engine for the company as more companies adopt this technology. Blockchain has the potential to penetrate the $2 trillion in global payments and $1.8 trillion global supply chain. Recently, healthcare has come into the equation as another huge addressable market. IBM has partnered with CVS Health's Aetna and other insurers on a blockchain network to cut healthcare industry costs. The companies will use the network for processing claims and payments and for maintaining a directory. Anthem, Health Care Services, and PNC Bank are also involved with the project.
To this end, IBM is offering the first enterprise-grade blockchain platform for permissioned networks and is aggressively stepping into the enterprise blockchain solutions space. Any company looking to employ blockchain technology will likely leverage a company like IBM for the blockchain infrastructure as it’s a first-mover in the space and Juniper Research ranked IBM as the top blockchain company in the world with 40% of surveyed tech executives and leaders ranking IBM as their preferred blockchain service provider. IBM is well-positioned as it is the #1 enterprise blockchain partner with greater than 400 projects with world-renowned companies across many different sectors involving transactions such as Dow, Walmart, HSBC, Nestle, and Visa.
Partners in the food industry are Nestlé, Unilever, and Kroger. In global shipping, IBM is working with Maersk, Dow Chemical and DuPont. IBM’s blockchain is seeing inroads in the finance industry as well with Societe Generale, HSBC, WeTrade, Unicredit, and Santander being top partners. IBM is also working with payment providers like VISA, BBVA, CIBC, EarthPort, and Polynesian payments platform KlickEx.
Walmart announced that all suppliers of leafy green vegetables for both Sam’s Club, and Walmart must upload their data to IBM’s food safety blockchain solution by September 2019. The IBM Food Trust Solution, which Walmart helped develop, makes the food supply process more transparent and traceable in the event of an illness outbreak. Before the blockchain technology adoption, it took roughly a week to trace the source of food and blockchain reduces the time to a matter of seconds, mitigating the risk of tainted food reaching consumers. Albertson’s recently joined IBM’s food safety network as well.
Briefly, Blockchain technology is the architecture that underpins the volatile cryptocurrency markets. This technology applies to enterprise applications since it employs a decentralized database, open ledger, and incorruptible transactional capabilities. Blockchain applies to any transactional business model, whether it’s financial or goods being transacted. The open ledger concept within the blockchain makes it incorruptible as any changes need confirmation from multiple parties, and any changes can be seen at any time within a permissioned blockchain. As a function of the decentralization, there’s no central repository or clearinghouse to be hacked or accessed. The blockchain speeds up and by-passes these intermediaries (i.e., clearinghouse or bank) to achieve transactions within minutes and not days. The distributed ledger within blockchain establishes a shared, irreversible record of all the transactions that take place within the network. The blockchain enables permissioned access to data in real-time. This allows multiple parties involved to collaborate, utilizing a single shared view of a transaction.
Red Hat Acquisition Closing 2H19
IBM acquired Red Hat for $34 billion, and investors are beginning to realize the added value this property brings to the table. IBM is set to update investors on August 2nd about the impact of Red Hat acquisition. The company continues to expect Red Hat, including related activity, to be accretive to free cash flow in the first year, and accretive to operating (non-GAAP) earnings per share by the end of the second year after closing.
"The acquisition of Red Hat is a game-changer. It changes everything about the cloud market. IBM will become the world's #1 hybrid cloud provider, offering companies the only open cloud solution that will unlock the full value of the cloud for their businesses.”
"Most companies today are only 20% along their cloud journey, renting compute power to cut costs. The next 80% is about unlocking real business value and driving growth. This is the next chapter of the cloud. It requires shifting business applications to hybrid cloud, extracting more data and optimizing every part of the business, from supply chains to sales." - Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO
This growth accelerator is a much-needed boost to the company’s stagnant growth over the past few years and will drive IBM further into the future of the cloud and where businesses are mitigating to from an enterprise perspective. Red Hat is the world’s leading provider of open-cloud solution and the emerging leader in the platform for hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud. IBM is attempting to reset the cloud landscape via its acquisition of Red Hat and in the process will become the undisputed number one leader in hybrid-cloud which is an emerging $1 trillion market.
Red Hat brings 90% penetration in the Fortune 500, and they are now one of the key foundational technologies of the hybrid-cloud. As clients transition to hybrid and multi-cloud, Red Hat can leverage their large installed base and its open architecture. Hence why Red Hat has emerged as one of the key foundational technologies for hybrid cloud computing, all of this feeds into analytics, data, AI, and Watson since all that combined data across these environments need to be delivered in a secured manner.
IBM continues its path with back-to-back quarters that investors have applauded with the stock now challenging its 52-week highs. IBM is slowly realigning itself for future growth with new and emerging end markets while making acquisitions for future growth (i.e., Red Hat). Red Hat brings its leading platform for hybrid-cloud and multi-cloud with 90% penetration into the Fortune 500. IBM will become the undisputed leader in hybrid-cloud, addressable $1 trillion market. Red Hat will accelerate IBM’s top-line revenue growth and its business shift to higher-value with margins expanding and free cash flow generation. IBM is a first mover in blockchain, this is a promising, emerging technology, and IBM has partnerships across all industries. IBM is aggressively stepping into the enterprise blockchain solutions space, and it may be a strong growth engine for the company.
The blended approach of M&A, realigning its business mix to current and future trends, maintaining its dividend payout and continuing to buy back shares until the Red Hat acquisition closes has been effective. The Red Hat acquisition will augment its transition away from its dependence on legacy businesses to the future of hybrid cloud, artificial intelligence, and analytics. IBM presents a compelling investment opportunity with a 4.3% dividend yield, a P/E ratio that represents a discount to the average stock, share buyback program and continuously acquiring companies to drive the business into the future.
Check out my previous article on IBM here.
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