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International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) And An Attractive Opportunity

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In the IT sector, major players fiercely compete for market share and they need to remain innovative in order to keep their clientele from migrating to competitors.

International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM)NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ:NTAP), International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), and BMC Software, Inc. (NASDAQ:BMC) are three players in this industry that deserve a closer look.

A stock in the spotlight

As one of the 100 Forbes’ “World’s Most Innovative Companies” for 2012, data storage provider NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ:NTAP), has caught investors´ attention, eliciting diverse opinions. News about the firm being a takeover target and providing the NFL with electronic data collection and security systems for the Superbowl have kept NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ:NTAP) in the spotlight. Although some analysts remain skeptical about the company’s short-term future, there are some good reasons to invest in NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ:NTAP).

Despite the growing concerns regarding NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ:NTAP)’s ability to beat its main competitor, EMC Corporation (NYSE:EMC), the market has shown that there is no need to, as more than one can co-exist. In fact, the company reported strong 2013 Q3 results, reinforcing this point.

Deutsche Bank recently recommended buying NetApp Inc. (NASDAQ:NTAP) as its current price of around $34 is below its 52-week high and the stock is expected to outperform the market. The consensus target price is fixed $40, up about 15% from the current levels.

The 17.1% operating margin reported for last quarter, mainly driven by diminishing operating costs, places the firm way above the Data Storage industry margin median. Decreasing margins and competitors in decline make a good cocktail for success, so, even though the company trades at a P/E of 24.73, 7 points above EMC´s 17.15, it still offers a compelling investment opportunity.

Competition is becoming limited to these two enterprises, as International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ), and Dell Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL) have been posting considerable declines in storage revenue. Given these circumstances, understanding why one of these firms would want to take over NetApp becomes easier.

An attractive opportunity

International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), recently experienced a drop in stock price. Trading at a reasonable P/E of 13.26, it offers a 1.75% dividend yield, higher than 82% of the 234 companies in the Computer Systems industry. International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), provides an attractive investment opportunity. Several reasons to believe in the firm’s growth can be listed:

Consensus estimates predict a 10.3% annual growth in EPS over the next two years, compared to its peers’ average of 13.3%. However, the long-term expectations of a 10.8% EPS growth rate are in line with its competitors. So, although short-term prospects are not extremely promising, the longer run outlook seems positive. With a forward P/E of 10.4x (Morningstar), the stock’s valuation is pretty low, thus providing a good entry point for investors.

As stated by Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore, “the combination of modest revenue growth, an ongoing mix up to higher margin products (SW), further productivity gains and buybacks should drive annual double-digit EPS growth over the next few years.” Given these circumstances, International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM)’s calculations to reach EPS of $20 by 2015 seem pretty realistic.

Over the past 10 years, International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM), has returned to investors, through dividend payouts and share buybacks, over 85% of the total free cash flow generated. This signifies an average of $10 billion repaid to shareholders each year (fiscal 2012 registered $15.77 billion returned to investors). Management has announced its expectation to buy back $50 billion in stock and return over $20 billion in dividends over the next five years.

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