Technologies like blockchain are IBM's 'best hope for recovery'

Blockchain may be IBM’s saving grace.

That’s the thesis of a research note by a trio of analysts at UBS, the Switzerland-based bank, out Tuesday morning.

IBM, the New York-based technology company, has witnessed its stock tank more than 14% year-to-date, despite its inroads into blockchain technology this year.

Blockchain, the technology powering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum, has become a popular buzzword on Wall Street as the price of digital coins and tokens continue to climb. But blockchain’s potential extends well beyond the cryptocurrency space.

Blockchain’s use as a distributed ledger and as an enabler of smart contracts could transform businesses across Wall Street, including the $US2 trillion payments industry, according to UBS. The bank sees these use-cases — outside of digital coins — as key to IBM’s growth moving forward.

“Both IBM and Microsoft are looking to monetise blockchain, but we think IBM is ahead and that blockchain is more important for IBM,” the bank said. “IBM’s legacy businesses are in decline; we think technologies such as blockchain and cognitive computing are its best hope for recovery.”

Already, IBM has partnered with a slew of businesses, including Walmart and Maersk, to help track everything from food safety to mango shipments using distributed ledger technology.

Instead of every single party — manufacturer, shipper, buyer, and any other intermediary — all relying on their individual paperwork to track a shipment from beginning to end, the blockchain would allow all stakeholders to see every step in an open, secure ledger.

IBM has also used blockchain in its 125,000-client global financing unit, according to UBS.

“The effort has reduced dispute resolution time from over 50 to fewer than 10 days and reduced administrative costs,” the bank said.

UBS thinks IBM’s history as a leading provider of technology to financial services firms and its “finance-savvy sales team” will position the company to be a leader in exploiting blockchain.

The bank has a price target of $US152 for the company, above its current market price of $US143 per share.

Get the latest IBM stock price here.

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