(Adds details on individual sectors, buybacks, free cash flow results, background)
By Marina Lopes
WASHINGTON, July 17 (Reuters) - International Business Machines Corp's software business grew less than expected in the second quarter, sparking a selloff in the company's stock on Thursday, even as its revenue beat forecasts.
The company's software business revenue grew 1 percent in the quarter to $6.5 billion, slower than forecasts of 3 percent, as it signed fewer contracts than expected.
"We expect acceleration of software revenue to mid-single digits in second half of 2014," IBM Chief Financial Officer Martin Schroeter said on a conference call after the results were released.
IBM, the world's largest technology company, has been attempting to restructure its business to focus on high-end products like Cloud, mobile security and Big Data. The company estimates that software will bring in half of its profits by 2015.
"This just isn't a growth story anymore, it hasn't been for a little while," said Scott Kessler an analyst at S&P Capital.
"Software is a big business no question, but 1 percent growth in what many have thought of as their key growth driver is worrisome," he said.
IBM shares slid 1.9 percent in after-hours trading to $188.89 after closing at $192.49.
In January, IBM sold its customer care business, which brought in approximately $1.2 billion in full year revenue in 2013, to hardware distributor Synnex Corp, a sale the company expects to negatively affect revenue comparisons by $300 million per quarter.
Last quarter, the company saw a $870 million restructuring fee, which was largely completed and contributed to savings quarter over quarter.
IBM reported free cash flow of $3 billion and buybacks of $3.7 billion, down from $8.2 billion last quarter.
The company also saw growth in its strategic sectors as business analytics was up 7 percent, cloud revenue grew 50 percent, and security revenue rose 20 percent.
Revenue in the Americas fell 1 percent, while revenue dropped 9 percent in Asia Pacific.
Overall, revenue fell 2 percent to $24.4 billion in the second quarter, above analysts' average estimate of $24.1 billion.
Net profit rose to $4.1 billion, or $4.12 per share, from $3.2 billion, or $2.91 per share, a year earlier.
On an adjusted basis, the company earned $4.32 per share, beating analysts' average estimate of $4.29, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Hardware revenue fell 11 percent to $3.3 billion, the seventh double-digit decline in the past eight quarters. (Reporting by Marina Lopes; Editing by Richard Chang and G Crosse)