**Scope Of Article**

The purpose of this article is to calculate the returns one can reasonably expect by buying International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) at the current price level of $213.44**.** Our estimates suggest a return of 10.7% which assumes slight multiple contraction. We are not buyers of IBM at this level.

**Trends**

In chart 1 below, we can see how IBM has consistently grown its earnings and cash flows over the last 11 years. The earnings manifest themselves as an ever increasing level of operating cash flow generation.

In chart 2 below, it is evident that IBM has been reinvesting its cash flows. We can see a growing capital base of the company. This has been a significant driver of historical growth in Net Income and based on our calculations, we do not see a reversal in this trend.

Chart 3 below shows the trailing 12-month Return On Invested Capital for IBM. Even though it has been a bit weak recently, the trend is still upward sloping. We need to dig a little deeper to understand what is happening.

ROIC Return On Invested Capital is driven by NOPAT (Net Operating Profit After Tax) Margin and Revenue/Invested Capital. In chart 4 below, we can see that IBM has seen decreasing revenues flowing out of its invested capital. Our personal view is that this is a function of a weak Europe and historically low levels of capex by corporations.

IBM has been able to keep its ROIC in an upward trajectory by improving its profit margins as illustrated in chart 5 below.

The pie chart below shows how IBM deploys the operating cash it generates.

**Valuation / Calculation Of Expected Returns**

*Earnings Per Share Estimate*

There are four building blocks to our earnings per share estimate: Increase in NOPAT from Invested Capital, Organic Growth, Earnings Per Share Uplift from Share Buybacks and Earnings Per Share Dilution from stock compensation.

*1. Increase in NOPAT from Invested Capital*

Firstly, we took a look at IBM's cash flows to see how much cash it is generating and how it has historically deployed that cash (see table). We use our own proprietary Adjusted Operating Cashflow number that includes proceeds from employee stock options.

The table below shows exactly how operating cashflow has been deployed over the last 5 and 10 years. Please note that IBM's current level of buybacks is impacting their capital structure. Going forward, we estimate that the company can only reasonably utilize 39% of cashflows for buybacks as opposed to an average of 62% over the last 5 years.

Increase in NOPAT from Invested Capital represents the increase in earnings we expect to see from Invested Capital. As can be seen below, IBM reinvests 19.4% of its cash flows on growth capex and acquisitions. We estimate that this will result in a 6.1% increase in net income.

*2.* *Organic Earnings Per Share*

An analysis of the trends in the amount of revenue IBM derives from its invested capital and its NOPAT margins give us an annualized organic growth rate of 1% over the next five years. Please note this is not saying that revenues will fall by 2.8% per year and margins will increase by 3.9 percentage points, but that the ratio of revenues/invested capital will fall by this amount and the NOPAT margin will increase from 15.6% to 16.2% (an increase of 3.9%).

*3.* *Earnings Per Share* *Uplift from Buybacks*

In the table below, we have estimated how much we anticipate Earnings Per Share to grow based on the % of Adjusted Operating Cashflow used for Share Buybacks. Based on the current market capitalization, we estimate the company can sustain buying back 3.1% of its stock every year.

*4.* *Dilution from stock compensation*

In the table below, we have estimated the dilutive effect on earnings of the company's stock compensation plans. Over the last 3 years, the average annualized dilution to the basic share count was 0.4%

The table below pulls together the four drivers of our Earnings Per Share estimate. We calculate 10.1% expected Earnings Per Share growth over the next five years.

Our next step is to identify the assumptions we will use to calculate the Internal Rate Of Return for the stock. The table below shows the trailing 12 month P/E ratio of the company of 13.90. In addition, we identified that over the last 5 years, the company's P/E has traded at 0.87x the S&P 500's P/E which would imply a P/E of 13.24. The current trailing 12-month P/E of the S&P 500 is 15.36.

In the table below, we calculate the 5-year Internal rate Of Return of holding IBM stock based on three scenarios. Scenario 1 assumes that in five years, the stock still trades on its current P/E ratio of 13.90. Scenario 2 assumes that in five years, the stock trades based on its average relative P/E to the S&P 500 of 0.87 which would be 13.24x. Scenario 3 assumes that in five years, the stock trades on a market multiple currently 15.36x (for the S&P 500).

**Conclusion**

In conclusion, we believe that for patient investors, a minimum gross annual return of 10.7% will be realized. This is based on slight multiple contraction. We would wait for a pullback in IBM stock to initiate a long position.

**Disclosure: **The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.