The computer giant IBM has posted an increase in its first quarter profits, helped by revenue growth at its consulting business.
IBM said earnings at its continuing operations - which excludes a hard disk drive business it sold last year - came in at 79 cents a share for the January to March quarter, up from 73 cents a year ago.
Revenues rose from $18bn last year to $20.1bn (£12.8bn) with a big increase at its Global Services division following last year's purchase of PwC Consulting.
The earnings per share figure was slightly lower than analysts' expectations, but IBM's shares still managed to rise in after-hours trading.
The firm said it expected to meet Wall Street forecasts for 2003, which currently stand at revenues of $88.04bn and
earnings of $4.32 per share.
"In the face of an ongoing difficult environment, we delivered another strong quarter and continued to gain share across our strategic businesses," said chairman and chief executive Samuel Palmisano.
Revenues at its Global Services division grew by 24% to $10.2bn as the contribution from the former PwC Consulting business was felt.
IBM bought the consulting arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers for $3.5bn last year in order to expand into the profitable corporate-services business.
The move allows IBM to provide consultancy alongside the sale of computer hardware and software.
Revenues from computer hardware sales were $5.8bn, down 1% on the same quarter last year.
Last year, the downturn in spending on IT led IBM to cut about 15,000 jobs and close down some of its older chip-making plants.