Everything is bigger at Big Blue

Contact: Brenon Daly

Sometimes, we forget why IBM is called Big Blue. The giant just reported $100bn in sales for 2010, making it more than twice the size of Cisco Systems and almost four times the size of Oracle. (Just on its own, IBM’s software portfolio is larger than all of Oracle, not to mention the fact that IBM’s software operations are vastly more profitable than Oracle.) IBM’s current valuation is big, too, with shares currently changing hands at their highest levels ever.

And, as we listened to the company discuss its recent financial results, we were reminded that it has a big appetite for deals. It dropped a cool $6bn on acquisitions last year, with half of that coming in just the fourth quarter. Just in the last year, IBM took two public companies off the board (Netezza, Unica), gobbled up another two companies that could have been looking for an IPO (Initiate Systems, BigFix), and was even on the buyside of an unusual $1.4bn divestiture (AT&T shedding Sterling Commerce). Of course, it’s easy to write those big checks when the company generated more than $16bn in free cash flow in 2010.