The problem confronting the International Business Machines Corp. these days is unusual indeed: What to do with $6 billion in excess cash lying around in company coffers? The embarrassment of riches afflicting the world's largest computer maker (1976 sales: $16 billion) was spotlighted last week when Chairman Frank T. Cary announced that IBM wants to spend $1.1 billion to buy back at least 4 million shares—almost 3% of the total outstanding—at $280 a share. The company's stock closed last week at $275.

By way of explanation, IBM would say only that "at...

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