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International Business Machines, the world's largest computer company, said on Monday the US securities and exchange commission was conducting an informal probe into the company's disclosures relating to its first-quarter earnings and expensing of stock-based compensation.

A company spokesman said IBM had “no reason to believe at this time that the accuracy of its earnings was an issue”. The company said it was complying with the SEC's request and noted that the agency's investigation was not an indication that any violations of law had occurred.

IBM in early April announced it would begin to expense stock-based compensation granted to employees in its first-quarter results. Just over one week later the computer group surprised Wall Street with first-quarter results that fell well short of expectations.

IBM said it was notified of the investigation a few days before making it public late on Monday. Shares in the computer company closed down 13 cents at $73.88 in regular trading and were down another 88 cents after hours.

IBM on Monday also announced the first company to adopt its revolutionary Cell processor outside of its partnership with Toshiba and Sony.

The group said Mercury Computer Systems, which develops embedded computer systems for medical imaging, defence and seismic processing uses, would be the first company to take Cell beyond gaming.

So far, the processor has been chosen to power Sony's next-generation PlayStation games console and Sony and Toshiba expect it to feature in high-definition television sets.

Mercury said Cell would handle complex graphics processing tasks as sensor data are visualised by computers, with tests showing it offered a three to four-times performance improvement over comparable solutions.

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