International Business Machines Corp. shares rose in the extended session Wednesday after Big Blue topped earnings estimates and software sales expectations, and played up the efficiency of its own AI, while axing thousands of jobs.
Last quarter, IBM posted its biggest sales increase in nearly a decade, while trimming its workforce by nearly 4,000 jobs.
“In the first quarter of 2023, management initiated a workforce rebalancing action to address remaining stranded costs in the business as a result of portfolio actions taken over the last several years,” IBM said in a filing, adding that the rebalancing charges primarily included employee transition costs, severance and employee benefits. IBM reported a pre-tax charge of about $260 million in the first quarter for “stranded costs.”
IBM, which now receives about three-quarters of its revenue from tech services, reported its revenue barely rose to $14.25 billion from $14.2 billion in the year-ago quarter.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet had forecast $1.26 a share on revenue of $14.35 billion. Prior to the earnings report, one analyst had said IBM would have to turn in “nearly pristine” results to support the stock.
Prior to Wednesday’s report, Chief Executive Arvind Krishna said artificial intelligence was well on its way to replacing humans for “clerical white-collar work.” On a call with analysts, Krisha gave examples of that in IBM’s own use, and told analysts that AI is projected to add $16 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
“In digital labor, we are helping finance, accounting, and HR teams save thousands of hours by automating what used to belabor intensive data-entry tasks,” Krishna told analysts. “These productivity initiatives free up spending for reinvestment and contribute to margin expansion.”
“We’re doing that in areas like HR and talent, finance, and end-to-end processes like quote-to-cash and source-to-pay,” said James Kavanaugh, IBM’s chief financial officer, on the call. “For example, in HR, we now handle 94% of our companywide HR inquiries, speeding up the completion of many HR tasks by up to 75%.”
Read: Meta begins cutting technical jobs in latest round of layoffs
IBM reported $5.92 billion in software revenue for the first quarter, while analysts forecast $5.83 billion; $4.96 billion in consulting revenue, versus the Street’s $5 billion; and $3.1 billion in infrastructure revenue, just below the consensus $3.19 billion.
IBM said it expects revenue growth will be “neutral” for the year compared with last year’s $60.53 billion, given current exchange rates, and reiterated its forecast of $10.5 billion in FCF. Analysts were laser-focused on free-cash flow, or FCF. For the first quarter, FCF came in at $1.3 billion, while analysts expected $1.6 billion.
Analysts had estimated $2.07 a share on revenue of $15.78 billion for the second quarter, and $9.45 a share on revenue of $62.7 billion for the year. Analysts currently expect $10.45 billion in FCF for the year.
Over the past year, IBM has warned about currency headwinds because of strength in the dollar, with the U.S. Dollar Index DXY,
IBM shares rose 3% after hours, following a 1.1% decline in the regular session to close at $126.32. Shares have slipped 2.2% over the past 12 months, and are down 10.3% year to date. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA,