IBM's Accounting Ripples Through Wall Street

Questions about accounting at IBM resulted in analysts expressing worries about the value of Big Blue's stock, and the resulting ripple sent the Dow Jones industrial average down 1.6 percent on Tuesday. IBM share prices dropped to below $100 on Tuesday after a report in Friday's New York Times raised the issue of how the earnings on a $300 million gain were reported to shareholders. IBM stock has lost more than 8% in two days.

According to The New York Times, IBM booked the $300 million gain on the sale of an optical unit in December. The New York Times stated that IBM should have accounted for the sale as a one time gain. Instead, the paper reported, IBM referred to the company's fourth-quarter profits in a recent conference call, indicating profits had grown due to increased productivity and higher sales of certain products.

IBM claims the company disclosed the sale adequately in two press releases in December. "IBM's accounting is conservative and fully compliant with all regulatory standards," said Carol Makovich, a company spokeswoman.

A Wall Street investment firm, Prudential Securities, questioned the firm's complex accounting procedures and suggested that such complexities would weigh on IBM's share price. Prudential analyst, Kimberly Alexy, said that long-standing concerns about IBM's earnings "engineering" would hurt the stock in the coming year.

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