By Max Clarke

There was good news for the world’s largest computing company and its 430,000 employees, as IBM (NYSE:IBM) posted strong performance for the first quarter 2011.

Operating income across the corporation grew 8%, with total gross profit margins reaching 44.1%, up 0.5%.

“We delivered a strong first quarter with revenue growth across hardware, software and services and with more than 40 countries growing in double digits,” said Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer.

Rapid growth, averaging 18%, in emerging markets and in particular the BRIC (Brazil Russia India and China) contributed some 21% of the New York giant’s profits, more than compensating for slowed growth across Europe.

Software and services both grew, but by a modest 6% compared to the performance of the company’s hardware sales, at 19%.

Palmisano continued: “We continued to see excellent momentum in our growth initiatives - smarter planet, cloud, business analytics, and growth markets - which bring together the full value of the IBM portfolio," said Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer. "We achieved broad-based margin improvement, while our cash flow and strong financial position enabled us to continue to return value to our shareholders.