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Hewlett-Packard German Stock Falls on Limited Forecast

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) dropped the most in six months after the company’s fiscal second-quarter profit forecast fell short of analysts’ estimates as consumers curtailed personal-computer purchases.

The shares declined 6.5 percent to $27.05 at the close in New York, the biggest decrease since Aug. 19. Before today, the shares had jumped 12 percent this year, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index increased 8 percent.

Profit before some items in the three months through April will be 88 cents to 91 cents a share, Hewlett-Packard said yesterday. That was less than the 95-cent average analyst estimate, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Sales in the personal-computer group dropped 15 percent to $8.87 billion in the three months ended in January as consumers held off on buying new machines in the first full quarter under Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman. Revenue from servers, printers and storage gear also declined, suggesting Whitman’s attempts to reverse a sales slump aren’t yet taking hold.

“Headwinds will likely continue through the second quarter,” Abhey Lamba, an analyst at Mizuho Securities USA Inc., said in a research note yesterday. “The company is again being conservative for the second quarter and remains cautious.” The New York-based analyst began coverage of Hewlett-Packard on Feb. 8 with a “neutral” rating.

‘Underinvested in Innovation’

On a conference call after the report, Whitman said the company’s PCs, printers and information-technology services haven’t been compelling enough to attract customers’ spending.

“For years, we’ve been basically running our business in silos,” she said. “We underinvested in innovation.”

First-quarter sales of home computers fell 25 percent and business-PC revenue was down 7 percent, the Palo Alto, California-based company said. Consumers may wait to buy new PCs until Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) releases its Windows 8 software later this year. Rival Dell Inc. (DELL) earlier this week forecast lower sales for the current period amid tepid demand from consumers and governments.

Hewlett-Packard’s printer group also has too many unsold products sitting in dealers’ inventory, Lamba said in an interview. Sales in the printer group declined 7 percent to $6.26 billion.

Profit Margins

Information-technology services revenue rose 1.1 percent to $8.63 billion, though the profit margin narrowed. Shifting to more profitable types of services will take time, Lamba said.

“It’s not going to be a one-year turnaround,” he said.

Sales of servers, storage and networking equipment declined 10 percent to $5.02 billion, Hewlett-Packard said. Software revenue climbed 30 percent to $946 million.

In the first quarter, which ended Jan. 31, profit excluding some items declined to 92 cents a share, compared with analysts’ average estimate of 87 cents.

Net income fell 44 percent to $1.47 billion, or 73 cents a share, from $2.61 billion, or $1.17 a share, a year earlier, Hewlett-Packard said. Sales fell 7 percent to $30 billion. Analysts had projected $30.8 billion.

Whitman said she’s attacking inefficient product-design and sales processes and investing in research and development to try to make the company more competitive. In an interview, she said she’s paring the number of PCs and printers Hewlett-Packard sells and making it easier for salespeople to adjust price quotes to book an order. She’s also been holding roundtables in Houston and other cities with chief information officers of big customers to suss out their needs.

Annual Forecast

“We’ve got everyone we can get calling on customers,” Whitman said. “I’ve got board members calling on customers.”

When the company reported fourth-quarter results Nov. 21, it forecast profit for fiscal 2012, which began Nov. 1, of at least $4 a share; analysts had previously expected $4.58. The manufacturer said yesterday that there has been no change to its annual forecast.

Since she took the helm, Whitman has been seeking to halt the missed sales forecasts and strategy shifts that marked the tenure of her predecessor, Leo Apotheker, who resigned Sept. 22. She has also said she’ll eschew big acquisitions. Apotheker left after a year and a half of management turmoil, falling computer demand and reduced growth forecasts. Whitman told analysts a complete turnaround of results could take two years or more.

Whitman has also said she will attempt to rebuild Hewlett- Packard’s balance sheet and spend more on research and development. R&D in the first quarter was 2.6 percent of sales, compared with 2.5 percent a year earlier.

PC Business Plans

Whitman reversed a proposal, floated under Apotheker, to jettison Hewlett-Packard’s $39.6 billion PC business. She’s also opted to turn the WebOS operating system into an open-source project, letting outside programmers tinker with the code and use it in their own electronics devices.

U.S. PC shipments declined last year for the first time in a decade, and the industry is wrestling with a shortage of hard drives after flooding crippled factories in Thailand last year. Meanwhile, Apple Inc.’s iPad is cutting into PC sales, and Lenovo Group Inc. is gaining market share.

Hewlett-Packard, Dell and other PC makers are counting on a new crop of thin-and-light laptops called ultrabooks to spur sales. In addition, Hewlett-Packard is readying a lineup of PCs that would run Windows 8 and go on sale in time for the holidays.

Whitman likened her push to streamline the company’s operations to the efficiencies implemented by former CEO Mark Hurd in his tenure from 2005 to 2010. Hurd departed after a company investigation found he had violated its business conduct standards.

“Mark Hurd did a lot of good for this company,” she said in the interview. “Had he stayed, he might have gone after some of the things I’m going after,” she said. “I’m standing on his shoulders in some ways.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Aaron Ricadela in San Francisco at aricadela@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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