IBM’s Growth Comes at a Cost

23. January 2018

Date: 23-01-2018
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Aging tech giant’s revenue finally rises, but investments expected to curb earnings growth for year ahead

Even for IBM , growth doesn’t quite solve everything.

International Business Machines reported Thursday that fourth-quarter revenue rose nearly 4% year over year. Even adjusting for a boost from favorable currency rates, Big Blue’s top line managed its first period of growth in nearly six years. Strong sales of systems hardware business along with IBM’s growing cloud-computing service contributed to the uplift.

Still, IBM’s shares fell Friday, much like they have done following 10 of its last 12 quarterly reports. A bit of growth, as it turns out, isn’t quite enough to assuage concerns about how the company gets there. Fourth-quarter gross margins slipped below the 50% line for the first time in five years for what is typically the company’s strongest seasonal period. And, while IBM did project annual revenue growth for 2018, it is unclear if the company can do that without continued help from favorable exchange rates.

Given that IBM’s stock had jumped more than 15% since its last quarterly report, some disappointment was bound to set in. The company also expects a slight drop in free cash flow in 2018 due to increased capital spending in key segments to drive future growth. IBM did manage to close 2017 with a small gain in adjusted per-share earnings of $13.80 after three years of declines. But the company also projected flat earnings for 2018, given its need to invest more in its business.

Those investments have borne some fruit. The “strategic imperatives” IBM has been so focused on for the last few years accounted for 46% of total revenue for 2017, compared to 41% the year before. While encouraging, for an overall business that has been in steady decline for the last six years, investors are now willing to take only so much on faith.

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IBM Revenue Grows for the First Time Since 2012

19. January 2018

Date: 19-01-2018
Source: The Wall Street Journal

A $5.5 billion charge related to the new U.S. tax law pushes fourth-quarter results into the red

International Business Machines Corp. reported higher revenue for the first time in 23 quarters and signaled continued growth into 2018, giving Chief Executive Ginni Rometty breathing space as she tries to turn around the century-old tech giant.

Fourth-quarter revenue rose 3.6% to $22.54 billion. The last time IBM had revenue growth from the prior year was the first quarter of 2012, Ms. Rometty’s first as chief.

Several factors drove growth in the latest quarter: sales of industrial-strength computers—which the company typically refreshes every few years— rose 32% to $3.33 billion, while cloud-computing revenue climbed 30% to $5.5 billion. Also, currency exchange rates have been working in IBM’s favor lately, accounting for 3 percentage points of the quarter’s revenue growth after years of being a headwind.

IBM said it took a $5.5 billion charge related to the new U.S. tax law, helping to push it into the red for the period. Its tax rate, excluding the charge but including certain one-time benefits, was 6%.

In all, the company reported a fourth-quarter loss of $1.05 billion, or $1.14 a share, compared with profit of $4.5 billion, or $4.72 a share, a year earlier. Read the rest of this entry »


Johnson: The importance of pauses in conversation

15. December 2017

Date: 14-12-2017
Source: The Economist

“Um”, “uh”, “mm-hmm” and interruption are not killers of conversation, but its lubricants

MARGARET THATCHER was known for a voice that brooked no disagreement. While still in opposition, she had taken elocution lessons to sound more forceful. Despite this, she was often interrupted in interviews as prime minister, and in 1982, three researchers set out to understand why. They played clips from one of her interviews to a variety of people. The clips included segments that ended in interruption (while editing out the interruptions themselves). More often than not, those hearing the interrupted phrases thought that the prime minister was ending her conversational turn. It seems her interviewer had come to a similar conclusion.

Why? Conversation, it turns out, is a finely tuned machine, as Nick Enfield, a linguist at the University of Sydney, suggests in “How We Talk”. Humans mostly follow a rule called “no gap, no overlap”, reacting to the end of a conversational turn by beginning their own in about 200 milliseconds—about the time it takes a sprinter to respond to the starting gun. This is all the more remarkable given that it takes about 600 milliseconds for someone to work out what they are going to say by mentally retrieving the words and organising how they are to be expressed.

People, therefore, must plan to begin speaking before their conversation partner has stopped. That requires a fine attention to the cues signalling the end of a turn, such as a lengthening of syllables and a drop in pitch. As it happens, using a downward shift of pitch is also a frequent piece of advice given to those who want to sound more authoritative—like Thatcher. The researchers studying the times she was interrupted found precisely that a sharp drop in her pitch accurately predicted an interruption. Read the rest of this entry »


Another Thing Amazon Is Disrupting: Business-School Recruiting

6. October 2017

Date: 06-10-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Amazon has hired some 1,000 newly minted M.B.A.s in the past year

Jewel Lai, center, a student at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, spoke with Lindsey Windham, right, a senior marketing manager at Amazon, after a Sept. 19 information session led by Tuck alumni working at Amazon.

Amazon.com Inc., disrupter of industries from book selling to grocery shopping, has found its latest sector to upend—recruiting at the nation’s elite business schools.

The Seattle-based retail giant is now the top recruiter at the business schools of Carnegie Mellon University, Duke University and University of California, Berkeley. It is the biggest internship destination for first-year M.B.A.s at the University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College and Duke. Amazon took in more interns from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business than either Bain & Co. or McKinsey & Co., which were until recently among the school’s top hirers of interns, according to Madhav Rajan, Booth’s dean. Read the rest of this entry »


A Rare Joint Interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Bill Gates

26. September 2017

Date: 26-09-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

On the occasion of the publication of Nadella’s first book, out this fall, Nadella and his predecessor talk shop

In February 2014, Satya Nadella became the third CEO of Microsoft . Nadella, more soft-spoken than his predecessors, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, assumed the company’s helm amid one of its stormiest chapters. Ballmer, toward the end of his 14-year tenure, had purchased Nokia ’s mobile phone business at great cost ($7.2 billion) but failed to make a dent in the market dominance of Apple and Samsung . Nadella quickly nixed those ambitions and instead ramped up investment in artificial intelligence and commercial cloud computing. The result has been a remarkable turnaround, featuring major growth in cloud services revenue, a doubling of year-on-year profits and an all-time stock price high.

In his new book, Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone (released September 26), Nadella, 50, explains this corporate transformation, lays out his hopeful vision for technological progress and recounts his own rich personal history. Read the rest of this entry »


Do You Know How Others See You?

29. August 2017

Date: 29-08-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal By Elizabeth Bernstein

We don’t always correctly read how the outside world reads us; new research shows what we can do to improve our perception and the benefits we’ll see

Most of us are not as self-aware as we think we are.

Research shows that people who have a high level of self-awareness—who see themselves, how they fit into the world and how others see them clearly—make smarter decisions, raise more mature children and are more successful in school and work. They’re less likely to lie, cheat and steal. And they have healthier relationships.

Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist from Denver, spent three years conducting a study on self-awareness and has a new book on it titled “Insight.” When it comes to self-knowledge, she says there are three types of people: those who have it, those who underestimate how much they have (she calls them “underraters”) and those who overestimate how much they have (“overraters”). Un derraters beat themselves up unnecessarily. Overraters believe they do everything well. She found no gender differences in her research.

Read the rest of this entry »


Crowded cloud: Microsoft

20. July 2017

Date: 20-07-2017
Source: The Economist

Today the world’s largest software company reports earnings for the second quarter. Its share price is at an all-time high, elevated by expectations that the chief executive, Satya Nadella, will continue to transform the company and develop new business lines.

Mr Nadella, who is enthusiastic about artificial intelligence (AI), wants Microsoft to become an “AI-first” firm. He has pumped more time and money into Azure, its cloud-computing business, hopeful that it will account for much of the firm’s future growth.

But the company faces stiff competition from deep-pocketed rivals, such as Amazon and Google. Jefferies, an investment bank, reckons Azure will chalk up around $5bn in sales in 2017, or 21% of the market—an impressive sum but far less than Amazon Web Services, with 71%. Investors will be looking for clues as to how much new cloud business Microsoft has won. When expectations are great, even good results can disappoint.