IBM (NYSE: IBM) beat Wall Street estimates for earnings  in the third quarter, the world’s largest technology company reported after the markets closed Monday.

Earnings came in at $3.28 per share after one-time items. Analysts had expected $3.21 per share.

Revenues climbed to $26.2 billion, just below some analysts’ expectations.

Revenues were up 8 percent a year ago, but only 3 percent when adjusted for currency valuations.

The company did increase its annual earnings per share guidance to $13.35 from $13.25.

The news didn’t meet expectations of some investors, however. IBM shares fell 4 percent, or $7.76, to $182.77 in after-hours trading.

Shares dropped $3.69 or nearly 2 percent during Monday trading to close at $186.84.

On Friday, IBM traded at a 52-week high of $190.53.

IBM’s revenue miss revived questions about the company’s ability to bring in enough new business to fuel its expected growth.

Global companies such as IBM face dangers on multiple fronts as the American economy struggles, debt fears threaten Europe and even some hot emerging markets show signs of cooling off. Sales to corporations and government agencies are at the heart of IBM’s business model. But some fear that they may spend less on IBM products and services if demand for their products stays depressed and government budget woes continue.

Most of the questions on IBM’s conference call with analysts covered macroeconomic concerns. But some of the share price decline likely was caused by investors cashing in on recent gains. IBM’s stock hit its 52-week high on Friday on expectations about the results.

IBM executives insist the company’s focus on long-term contracts insulates it from economic swings. The company said it is ahead of its own aggressive forecasts. IBM has disclosed a goal of hitting $20 per share in adjusted earnings by 2015, a rare example of a long-term earnings target made public by a major company.

For the three months that ended Sept. 30, IBM said net income was $3.84 billion, or $3.19 per share, up 7 percent from $3.59 billion, or $2.82 per share, a year ago. Excluding one-time items, it earned $3.28 per share, 6 cents per share more than analysts surveyed by FactSet forecast on average.

Revenue rose in each of IBM’s three biggest divisions, but more slowly than in the previous quarter.

Services revenue rose 8 percent, software revenue rose 13 percent, and hardware revenue rose 4 percent. In the second quarter, services revenue rose 10 percent, software revenue rose 17 percent, and hardware revenue grew 17 percent.

“In the third quarter, we drove revenue growth, margin expansion and increased earnings as a result of our innovation-based strategy and continued investment in growth initiatives,” said Sam Palmisano, IBM’s chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a statement. “Growth markets delivered outstanding revenue performance across software, hardware, and services and contributed to the company’s expanded margins. We also achieved strong results in Smarter Planet, business analytics and cloud.
“Based on this performance, we are raising our 2011 full-year operating earnings per share expectations to at least $13.35.”

Read the earnings report from IBM here.

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