International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM), the world’s largest computer-services provider, boosted its full-year profit forecast, beating analysts’ estimates as companies buy more software and services.

The news sent IBM shares up 2 percent, or $3.05, in after-hours trading to $168.45.

Operating earnings will be at least $13.15 a share this year, up from a previous projection of at least $13, Armonk, New York-based IBM said today in a statement. That tops the $13.08 average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. First- quarter services signings fell 14 percent from a year earlier, erasing the shares’ gains in extended trading.

Sales last quarter climbed 7.7 percent to $24.6 billion, topping projections, as software, hardware and services revenue jumped. Equipment sales climbed for the fifth straight quarter as customers continued to upgrade after IBM released its Power7 server-computer system and a new mainframe last year.

“You’re still at the heart of the Power7 cycle and the mainframe cycle,” David Grossman, a San Francisco-based analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co, said before the earnings were released. He recommends buying the shares and doesn’t own them.

Signings declined to $10.5 billion in the quarter. In January, Chief Financial Officer Mark Loughridge called services bookings a “volatile” figure and not as accurate a predictor of revenue as backlog. For three quarters last year, a drop in new contract signings overshadowed an improved profit forecast.

IBM slid 8 cents to $165.32 in late trading, after falling 54 cents to $165.40 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have climbed 13 percent this year.

2015 Roadmap

First-quarter net income rose 10 percent to $2.86 billion, or $2.31 a share, from $2.6 billion, or $1.97, a year earlier.

Profit on an operating basis was $2.41 a share, compared with analysts’ average estimate of $2.30. This is the first year IBM is reporting on an operating format, which excludes acquisition and some retirement costs.

Operating earnings will be at least $20 a share in 2015, IBM said last month, reiterating a forecast from a year ago.

IBM is investing in cloud-computing and analytics-software businesses, which the company predicts will generate $7 billion and $16 billion in revenue, respectively, by 2015. Those initiatives, along with investments in emerging markets and Smarter Planet — IBM’s plan to digitize physical infrastructure — will help add on about $20 billion in sales through 2015, the company said last month.

Chief Executive Officer Sam Palmisano also plans to make about $20 billion in acquisitions in the same time frame, a projection he first gave last year.

For the full earnings report, read here.

IBM employs some 10,000 people in Research Triangle park, N.C.

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