IBM (NYSE:IBM) shares fell more than 2% in premarket trading on Thursday as analysts remained cautious about the IT giant’s future in light of its recent fourth-quarter results and guidance for 2023.
Citi analyst Jim Suva, who has a neutral rating on IBM (IBM), called the quarterly results mixed, as consulting signings were encouraging, but operating margins and free cash flow missed expectations. IBM (IBM) guided 2023 free cash flow to $10.5B, below the consensus estimate of $11B.
“We maintain our Neutral rating and look for signs of more sustainable revenue growth and margin expansion,” Suva wrote in a note to clients.
Morgan Stanley analyst Erik Woodring, who has an equal-weight rating on IBM (IBM), also noted that the fourth-quarter results were about as expected, with stronger-than-expected revenue growth at $16.7B for the period, but free cash flow during the fourth-quarter was an issue, coming in at $5.2B, about 30% below Woodring’s expectations.
“Taking a step back, tonight played out as we expected – with solid [December quarter] fundamentals but a bit of a ‘show me’ story guide for 2023,” Woodring wrote.
“While do acknowledge the positive steps IBM has made to improve the partner ecosystem (SAP, MSFT, and AWS contributed over $1B+ of Consulting revenue for the year) and focus the portfolio, we still view valuation as rich in the context of slowing growth,” he added.
IBM (IBM) said it expects constant currency revenue growth to be in the mid-single digits for fiscal 2023.
Woodring noted that the free cash flow miss in the fourth-quarter and the guidance of $10.5B for 2023 is going to make it difficult for IBM (IBM) to meet its target of $35B in free cash flow for 2022 to 2024, as free cash flow would have to grow 40% year-over-year in 2024 to meet the target.
In addition to the quarterly results, IBM (IBM) CFO James Kavanaugh said the company would cut roughly 1.5% of its 260,000 global workforce, or about 3,900 jobs and would incur a $300M charge related to the job cuts.