IBM ups earnings outlook amid stock buyback

/ Source: The Associated Press

IBM Corp. raised the low end of its 2008 earnings outlook Tuesday and said its board of directors had authorized a continuation of its massive stock buyback program. Its shares jumped almost 4 percent.

IBM now expects earnings per share to exceed $8.25 this year. Previously the company had given a range of $8.20 to $8.30, and analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting $8.22.

IBM has spent $94 billion buying back shares since 1995, including $18.8 billion last year. Tuesday's decision by the board will let the technology company spend another $15 billion on share repurchases, in addition to $400 million left over from a previous authorization.

IBM said it expects to spend $12 billion of that pool buying back shares in 2008.

IBM shares rose $4.30 to $114.38 in trading Tuesday.

IBM's aggressive stock repurchases are expected to continue in the coming years. IBM executives have described a plan for earnings per share in 2010 to be as high as $11, which would represent a gain of nearly $5 from 2006. Roughly $1.10 of that $5 increase is expected to come from taking shares off the market.

For now, the few analysts with 2010 forecasts need some convincing of IBM's plan: Thomson Financial says the consensus forecast for that year is $10.35 per share.