HP Forecast Disappoints on PCs, IT Services

By Reuters

(Reuters) - Hewlett-Packard Co trimmed its 2011 revenue projections on weak consumer PC demand and a lackluster showing from its IT services arm, sending its shares plummeting 12 percent.

The weak performance, which saw HP missing its own revenue target for the fiscal first quarter, made for a tough start for new Chief Executive Leo Apotheker.

The January quarter was the first for the former SAP CEO, who joined the company after the controversial ouster of the Mark Hurd and has since put his own stamp on the company. HP added five new directors to its board in a major shake-up just last month.

Sales from its personal systems group slipped 1 percent as the company's personal computer sales in China continued to struggle. Revenue from its giant services business slid 2 percent, as HP saw a shortfall in short-term, "add-on" deals in areas such as infrastructure technology outsourcing.

"If you use Q1 as a marker, it's clear that we do a lot of things well at HP. It's also clear that we have isolated areas we need to improve," Apotheker told reporters on a conference call.

HP's poor showing overshadowed a beat on fiscal first-quarter profit, driven in part by cost discipline and lower component costs that had also boosted rival Dell Inc.

HP's bright spots included strong sales of enterprise servers, storage and networking equipment, and a good performance in the printing group.

"The net of it was you had a miss on the PC side, and that's clearly not bouncing back," said Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross. "People are worried about the ability of HP to show strong growth."

Gross margin came in at 24.4 percent, just above Wall Street's forecast. But HP warned that lower component prices would not benefit it as much this quarter.

"If it's all from component prices they won't get any credit," said Wedbush Securities analyst Kaushik Roy. "The question is -- are gross margins getting better partly because better supply chain and mix shift to higher margin businesses like networking, storage and servers?"

The world's largest technology corporation by revenue raised its forecast for fiscal 2011 non-GAAP earnings, predicting a profit of $5.20 to $5.28 a share. But it trimmed its revenue outlook to a range of $130 billion to $131.5 billion, from a previous $132 billion to $133.5 billion.

The lower sales outlook was due to weak demand for consumer PCs, and slower-than-normal growth in HP services.

HP emphasized that its forecast -- which was also below analysts' expectations for the current April quarter on a revenue basis -- was conservative.

HP is a dominant player in most major IT segments, including PCs, services, printers, and servers.

It reported net income of $2.6 billion for the fiscal first quarter ended January 31, or $1.17 a share, up from $2.3 billion, or 93 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, HP earned $1.36 a share, better than the average analyst estimate of $1.29 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 4 percent to $32.3 billion, but fell short of Wall Street's estimate of $32.96 billion.

Before Tuesday, HP shares had largely rebounded from lows touched after the surprise ouster of Hurd last August. The stock had been up about 14 percent this year.

But investors are still eager to learn more about Apotheker and his long-term vision for HP. Apotheker will share his strategy at an event for analysts and media on March 14.

Tuesday's report sent HP's stock into a rare tailspin. In after-hours trading, it dived more than 10 percent -- surpassing the one-day percentage drop after the company stunned investors by announcing Hurd's exit. The sell-off, if racked up during a regular session, would mark the stock's biggest one-day drop since August 2004.

Shares of Palo Alto, California-based HP closed almost 1 percent lower at $48.23 on the New York Stock Exchange and fell further to $42.45 in extended trading.

(Additional reporting by Noel Randewich; Writing by Edwin Chan; Editing by Richard Chang, Gary Hill)

This article was originally published on 2011-02-22