IBM stock hits all-time high as it backs upbeat target

Wed Mar 9, 2011 1:28pm EST

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(Reuters) - Shares of International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N) hit a lifetime high on Wednesday as analysts welcomed the tech giant's commitment to double its profit by 2015.

IBM shares rose as much as 3.3 percent to $167.72, their highest level on record adjusted for stock splits, as a host of analysts raised their target price on the company, the day after it reaffirmed its ambitious 2015 earnings target.

The optimism was limited to IBM. Shares of rivals Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N) all fell.

In May last year, the company forecast it would roughly double its profit to at least $20 per share by 2015 as it pushes further into emerging markets and lucrative services and software businesses.

The company held to that plan in a meeting with analysts on Tuesday. Progress has been faster than anticipated in some key areas, notably acquisitions, RBC Capital Markets analyst Amit Daryanani said in a note.

Daryanani, who raised his target price on the shares to $176 from $165, said the investor day showed IBM's plan remains intact, which is a positive for shareholders.

"IBM has numerous arrows in its quiver to meet its long-term EPS guidance, with substantial financial flexibility," Bank of America Merrill Lynch said. The brokerage raised its target price on IBM shares by $10 to $190.

IBM shares were up $4.42, or 2.7 percent, to $166.70 in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed and Supantha Mukherjee in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das and Tim Dobbyn)

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