Citigroup Ups IBM to Buy

Analyst Rich Gardner says the company's fundamental business is improving

Citigroup raised its investment recommendation on International Business Machines (IBM ) to buy from hold.

Analyst Rich Gardner cited improving fundamentals in services as bookings for 2005 look up 10% to 15% vs. down 22% last year, restructuring in services that is leading to higher margins, several new product cycles in microelectronics and servers that lead to a positive mix shift, the lack of PC and printer exposure in what's likely to be an increasingly difficult pricing environment, and attractive valuation on options expense adjusted estimates. He ranks IBM as a top pick within large-cap hardware companies. He upped his earnings per share estimates for 2005 to $4.98 from $4.94, and for 2006 to $5.52 from $5.41.

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