IBM breaks revenue losing streak with 2018 gain, but continues quarterly slide

IBM has reported $79.6 billion in revenue for 2018, up 1 percent from last year — even as its quarterly revenue continues to decline.

In January 2018, the Armonk, N.Y.-based tech giant broke its 22-quarter streak of declining revenues, reporting $22.5 billion for the fourth quarter of 2017 — a 4 percent increase from the same period one year prior. The improvement represented the first quarter IBM had reported revenue growth in more than five years.

At the time, IBM officials attributed its improvement to earnings from "strategic imperatives," meaning the company's newer initiatives like artificial intelligence, cloud computing and data analytics. These projects comprised $36.5 billion in earnings during 2017, or 46 percent of the company's revenue that year.

IBM's strategic imperatives continued to experience growth in 2018, according to earnings results posted Jan. 22. Revenue from strategic imperatives topped $39.8 billion during 2018, up 9 percent year over year. Cloud revenue hit $19.2 billion, up 12 percent, and analytics revenue hit $21.7 billion, up 5 percent.

However, the company's quarterly revenue dropped during 2018's fourth quarter. IBM reported $21.8 billion in revenue, down 3 percent from the same period in 2017. It's a continuation of last quarter's earnings, when IBM reported revenue was down 2 percent, halting its three consecutive quarters of growth.

Despite the quarterly drop, IBM officials continued to credit the company's full-year performance to its strategic imperatives and highlighted its AI solutions as key growth areas. Revenues for IBM's AI segment — which it refers to as "cognitive solutions" — remained flat between 2017 and 2018 at $18.5 billion.

"In 2018 we returned to full-year revenue growth, reflecting growing demand for our services and leadership solutions in hybrid cloud, AI, analytics and security," Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, said in a news release.

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