Is IBM Running Into a Buzz Saw?

With more than 5,400 stocks to choose from, the universe of investment possibilities is enormous. You could get tips over the company water cooler or from Internet discussion boards. A better way might be to look for stocks based on what you already know and own.

Motley Fool CAPS helps you focus your energies by providing you with a personalized Stock of the Day. Using its supercomputer, it looks at stocks currently in your active pick list, stocks picked by highly rated players with lists similar to yours, industries in which you currently have active picks, and Saturn's orbit around the sun. (Well, maybe not that last one -- but it targets areas in which you already have an interest.)

By pairing up the opinions of some of the top investors in the CAPS community, CAPS provides you with a handful of companies on which to begin your own due diligence and research.


Based on my outperform ratings on fellow computer and peripheral makers like Lexmark International, Synaptics, and even China Digital TV, which makes set-top boxes in Asia, as well as my underperform rating on Dell, the CAPS supercomputer thought I also might be interested in IBM (NYS: IBM) , one of five Stocks of the Day it offered up for my consideration this week.

Of course, IBM is about more than just computers these days, having transformed itself into a business services company, so let's see what it has going for it that might warrant an investment, even if the supercomputer hasn't yet picked it for you. Just remember, as smart as the CAPS algorithm may be, it's still just an algorithm, so be sure to look before you leap on any of its suggestions.

IBM snapshot

Industry Information technology
Sector Computers and peripherals
Market Cap $231 billion
Revenue, TTM $107 billion
Return on Capital, TTM 26%
Dividend/Yield $3.00/1.50%
Cash $12.3 billion
Long-Term Debt $25.8 billion
Free Cash Flow, TTM $16.8 billion
Recent Price $199.51
CAPS Rating (out of 5) ****

Source: Motley Fool CAPS; S&P Capital IQ. TTM = trailing 12 months.

Buy what you know
While the markets didn't much like the first-quarter results it posted (the drop in IBM's shares the other day were largely responsible for the drop in the Dow itself), in its key markets IBM continues to report solid business and is still able to grab share from its rivals.

Hardware has become less important for the one-time iconic computer maker, though in the Unix server line it continues to take share from both Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) and Oracle (NAS: ORCL) . But business services are where it's at these days for IBM, generating the bulk (60%) of its $24.7 billion in quarterly revenue, although backlog in the segment fell 2% year over year.

Analytics remains a bright spot, enjoying 14% revenue growth and a 15% jump in service signings. But perhaps the biggest opportunity for Big Blue comes from "big data." With the world awash in data -- IBM says we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day -- helping businesses get a handle on the information flowing into their operations is one of the cornerstones of its future growth plays. It was also behind one of the more successful tech IPOs, as Splunk (NAS: SPLK) doubled in value on its first day of trading and received a $3 billion market cap.

IBM is a leader here, though, and its Netezza business had a win rate of nearly 80% in head-to-head proof-of-concept engagements, while Cognos saw double-digit growth.

Just as IBM was a powerhouse in computers at the outset, it's flexing its muscles in data management today. While upstarts like Splunk may gain some headlines with a splashy IPO, it's the knowledge and know-how behind Big Blue that make it a leader in the big data space. According to the market analysts at IDC, big data technology and services will grow from a sleepy $3 billion business in 2010 to almost $17 billion by 2015 -- a 40% compounded annual growth rate.

It was the successful switch from hardware to services that convinced CAPS member MiguelCouto that IBM will remain a force to be reckoned with in the future. It's part of the reason I'm rating it to outperform the market as well. Add it to your watchlist and let me know on the IBM CAPS page or in the comments section below whether you think that a bet on Big Blue can make your portfolio green.

Even if IBM doesn't pique your interest, there's a new technological revolution on the horizon that's likely to upset the new world order -- and it's made here right in the U.S. The Motley Fool featured it in its free report, "The Future is Made in America." You can download a free copy -- just click here.

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Rich Duprey owns shares of Oracle, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of IBM and Oracle. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of China Digital TV and writing covered calls on Dell. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Copyright © 1995 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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