Here's a not-so-bold prediction: IBM (NYSE: IBM) is likely to be the next company in the Dow Jones Industrial Average to replace its CEO.

Since its board of directors appointed Virginia Rometty to lead the company on Oct. 26, 2011, IBM has steadily morphed from a technology leader to a cash cow. Innovation has been replaced by financial engineering, and the company's just-completed third-quarter conference call was an exercise in deep frustration as analysts fumed that Big Blue keeps delivering another set of missteps.

It's not Rometty's fault. She inherited a bloated behemoth. But it's hard to find any solid moves that might pave the way for a turnaround either.

In the eyes of investors, Rometty got off to a good start. She immediately tasked her charges with finding every opportunity to squeeze out profits, which pushed shares above $200 in early 2012 for the first time in company history. That time held another, more dubious distinction: IBM posted a revenue decline in the first quarter of 2012 and has yet to show revenue growth since.

At this point, analysts have moved their ratings to "neutral" or "hold," with price targets right around the current stock price. They are just being diplomatic -- because in the absence of any deep fundamental change, IBM's slide into irrelevance will only accelerate.

This isn't a company that can be fixed by a modest acquisition or a new piece of hardware. Instead, a breakup of the company into smaller, more focused segments might be the only answer. It's just a matter of time before IBM's board realizes that.

For investors, the IBM debacle holds several lessons:

Over the past year, IBM has been talking to investors about a goal of generating $20 in earnings per share (EPS) each year, perhaps by 2015. Shares trading for less than 10 times that goal have simply led investors into a value trap. In today's market, tech investors are focused on corporate strategy, industry positioning and, most of all, revenue growth. Though IBM has been making tentative forays into cloud computing, virtualization, Big Data analytics and other hot tech niches, few would consider the company to be a trend-setter in any niche.



Action to Take --> Though IBM has an increasingly bleak future -- unless it embarks upon a radical change -- it remains as one of the most profitable companies (on an absolute basis) on the planet. That leads investors to the question: "At what price would shares be attractive?" My view: never. IBM's massive status means the company (and its stock) will never crash, but it's just too hard to see any catalysts that would push this stock higher.
Related Articles
  1. Stock Analysis

    How Much Coca-Cola Spends on Advertising

    Learn about Coca-Cola's ad spending and why the company has decided to spend the amount of money it does. Understand comparable companies and industries.
  2. Investing

    Welcome Back, Volatility

    Volatility is likely to resurface as the Federal Reserve gets closer to adjusting its monetary policy stance, even if that adjustment is a measured affair.
  3. Economics

    What Is The Labor Market Conundrum?

    We are facing a conundrum with investment implications: Why are wages still stagnant, when jobs are being created at the fastest pace since the late 90's?
  4. Investing

    Why Are Consumers In Hesitation?

    Diverging monetary policy globally and a stronger dollar continued to be key drivers of the recent underperformance and last week’s tumble in U.S. stocks.
  5. Economics

    Bulk Shipping Companies Struggle As Markets Soften

    The "soft" dry bulk shipping market that confronts shipping companies is a result of lower demand from China, and an excessive amount of bulk ships.
  6. Stock Analysis

    Sierra Wireless Benefits From These Megatrends

    We take a closer look at how Sierra Wireless' transition from 2G to 3G and 4G technologies, has impacted its business today, and the future expectations.
  7. Stock Analysis

    3 Growth Opportunities For ARM Holdings

    ARM Holdings highlighted several growth opportunities in its most recent roadshow presentation. Here are three of the large opportunities it talked about.
  8. Stock Analysis

    Is Cheniere Energy Still On Track For 2016?

    The energy boom in the U.S. has opened up a huge range of opportunities in the oil and gas industry.
  9. Stock Analysis

    What’s The Key To Costco’s Extraordinary Success?

    Costco has been one of America's most successful companies: It's growing, efficient, profitable and its long-term shareholders have benefited a windfall.
  10. Stock Analysis

    Can American Capital Agency Maintain Its Dividend?

    Dividend investors know that real estate investment trusts with REITs that invest in mortgage-backed securities produce double-digit dividend yields.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Fractal Markets Hypothesis (FMH)

    An alternative investment theory to Efficient Market Hypothesis ...
  2. Core Durable Goods Orders

    New orders for U.S. core durable goods, which are the total durable ...
  3. Investopedia

    One of the best-known sources of financial information on the ...
  4. Market Depth

    The market's ability to sustain relatively large market orders ...
  5. Closing Tick

    The difference between the number of stocks that closed higher ...
  6. Institutional Brokers' Estimate ...

    A system that gathers and compiles the different estimates made ...
RELATED FAQS
  1. What is the long-term outlook of the metals and mining sector?

    An industry agency council was established by the World Economic Forum in 2014 to serve as an advisory board on the future ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is the railroads sector?

    The railroads sector is comprised of publicly traded stocks for companies that operate railroad tracks and/or trains. Railroad ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Who are Amgen Inc.'s (AMGN) main competitors?

    Biotech giant Amgen Inc (AMGN) bills itself as one of the first biotechnology firms. It was founded in 1980 and has grown ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What's the most expensive stock of all time?

    Back in late August 2012, Apple’s (AAPL) stock price reached nearly $700 per share. The stock has since split but has yet ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE
Trading Center
×

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!