IBM ringing up retail system biz sale to Toshiba?

Checking out of POS market

Is IBM fixing to sell its point of sale hardware and software business to Japanese conglomerate and sometime IT partner Toshiba?

That's what a report in the Japanese business daily Nikkei says.

Nikkei cites sources saying that Toshiba wants to give Big Blue ¥70bn, or around $870m at current exchange rates, to acquire the Retail Store Systems division within IBM's Systems and Technology Group. That's the part of IBM that makes servers, storage, networking gear, chips, as well as the cash registers, kiosks, and other point-of-sale (POS) gear used by stores, banks, hotels, casinos, gas station pumps, and other institutions that need to collect money or dispense it.

IBM is the market leader, with about 22 per cent of POS unit shipments in 2011, the Nikkei report says, citing unknown data sources that peg Hewlett-Packard as number two in the POS space and Toshiba TEC, the Japanese computer giant's POS unit, as number seven by shipment rankings. (The data is probably from IHL Group, which tracks all things retail. IHL had not returned calls for comment as El Reg went to press.)

Big Blue does not release sales figures for the RSS division, but you can tease out some data from its quarterly financial presentations because RSS is what is left over in the Systems and Technology Group when you take out the server, storage, and chip pies. (Presumably networking is part of servers.)

Last year, IBM had just under $19bn in hardware sales, up 5.6 per cent. The RSS division was somewhere around $715m of that, and it rose at more than twice the rate of growth as IBM's overall hardware biz, with revenues up around 12 per cent last year.

That doesn't sound like a business you want to sell, unless you need to cash for buybacks and it is a non-strategic hardware business that doesn't make compelling amounts of money. IBM has long since sold off its PC business to Lenovo, so it is not like it has synergies between PCs and POS systems that it can exploit. The wonder is that Lenovo didn't take RSS along with the PC unit.

An IBM spokesperson told El Reg that it does not comment on rumors and speculation when asked if Toshiba was indeed buying the RSS biz. ®

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