HP to Decide on Spinning Off PC Unit This Month, CEO Says

Hewlett-Packard Co. aims to decide whether to spin off its personal-computer division by the end of October, Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman said at a conference today, pushing up the company’s timetable.

Whitman, who succeeded Leo Apotheker as CEO of the world’s largest PC maker last month, was speaking at a conference on women in leadership sponsored by Fortune magazine. Under Apotheker, who resigned as CEO Sept. 22, the company had said it would decide on the $41 billion division’s fate by the end of the year. It’s critical that Hewlett-Packard make the decision more quickly, Whitman said.

“We have to make a final decision about what to do with the PC division,” she said. “It’s a decision I want to make much faster than my predecessor. I want to make it before the end of October.”

Whitman took over from Apotheker after a series of jarring strategy shifts and three quarters of reduced sales forecasts cut short his tenure. Whitman told conference attendees in Laguna Niguel, California, it would be “very helpful” if the company met analysts’ expectations in the fiscal fourth quarter ending Oct. 31. According to Bloomberg data, analysts are predicting sales of $32.1 billion and profit of $1.13 a share.

“It would be very helpful if we made those with our heads high,” said Whitman. “I don’t have a lot of control over that.”

Romney’s Advice

Integrating the company’s $10.3 billion purchase of software company Autonomy Corp. is also important, she said.

Whitman said she consulted with her family and mentors including Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who advised her to work for Hewlett-Packard, which he called an “American icon.”

Losing the governor’s race in California last year taught her to communicate better with groups and weather criticism, she added. Hewlett-Packard employees need to recover from “a post-traumatic syndrome” as a result of the company’s succession of CEOs, Whitman said.

Shares of Hewlett-Packard gained 82 cents, or 3.7 percent, to $23.02 today on the New York Stock Exchange.

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