* Board approval brings total buyback plan to $9.2 bln
* IBM plans to request board approval for more next year
* J.P. Morgan reiterates “overweight” in stock
* Analysts say buybacks do not preclude future M&A deals
* IBM shares rise as much as 1.7 pct (Adds analyst comment, details)
By Ritsuko Ando
NEW YORK, Oct 27 (Reuters) - IBM (IBM.N) said it plans to spend another $5.0 billion on share repurchases, boosting its total outstanding stock buyback program to $9.2 billion, a reflection of its strong cash flow.
IBM said on Tuesday it will repurchase shares on the open market or in private transactions, depending on market conditions. It also said it expects to request approval for additional share repurchase authorization at its April board meeting.
Shares of International Business Machines Corp rose as much as 1.7 percent after the announcement, which analysts said was good for shareholders although not entirely a surprise.
The buyback would add to around $4.2 billion remaining at the end of September from a previously approved plan, with the total amount representing around 5.9 percent of IBM’s $157 billion market capitalization.
“It’s a decent size,” said Broadpoint AmTech analyst Brian Marshall. He said one of the key components of IBM’s earnings growth in the past few years was through share buybacks.
“This is in conjunction with what they’ve been doing in the past few years and I think they’re trying to get the stock moving,” he said.
Some analysts said the large buyback was possible as IBM has not been as acquisitive as some of its tech peers, such as Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) or Oracle Corp ORCL.O. But they also said the move does not prohibit future deals.
IBM generated $3.4 billion in free cash flow in the third quarter, ending the period with with $11.5 billion of cash on hand.
“They have a lot of dry powder,” said Marshall.
Chief Executive Samuel Palmisano said IBM has returned $73 billion to shareholders since 2003.
“We expect share buybacks to remain a priority at IBM in the coming year,” said J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz, reiterating an “overweight” recommendation on the shares.
IBM’s stock closed up 0.45 percent, or 54 cents, to $120.65 on Tuesday. (Reporting by Ritsuko Ando, editing by Gerald E. McCormick,Gunna Dickson and Carol Bishopric)