(Photo: Reuters / Lucy Nicholson)
Margaret (Meg) Whitman, now CEO of Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), shown conceding defeat as 2010 Republican nominee for governor of California.
Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), the world's biggest computer company, has nowhere to go but up. It's scheduled to report third-quarter financials after the market close Wednesday, and investors and technologists will be watching for signs that its restructuring and massive write-offs are over.
Tuesday's report by Dell (Nasdaq: DELL), No. 3 in PCs, which missed earnings estimates, may also color the HP report and forecast, especially because Dell predicted lower revenue ahead.
CEO Margaret (Meg) Whitman, 56, on the job at the Palo Alto, Calif., company nearly 11 months, has never fully detailed a plan to get HP moving solidly again. Instead, she announced certain mid-course adjustments, like deciding to retain the world's biggest PC business, but then revamped its printers division, also the world's biggest.
Then, Whitman, a successful CEO at online auction house eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY) before failing to win the governorship of California in 2010 on the Republican line, implemented a series of smaller measures, including promoting longtime software boss Bill Veghte to chief operating officer, a position HP had left vacant for years.
She also replaced printers chief Vyomesh Joshi with Todd Bradley, head of the PC unit, who now oversees both operations.
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Whitman, a Princeton economics graduate with a master's degree in business administration from Harvard, also took mega-charges for prior acquisitions, which notably Electronic Data Systems in 2008 and Autonomy PLC last year. For the period ended July 31, for example, the charge will be $8 billion, along with a charge as high as $1.7 billion to pay for firing about 8 percent of the payroll.
That's why third quarter net income is expected to nearly evaporate to only 2 cents a share compared to 93 cents a year ago, although earnings from continuing operations are expected to be 98 cents on revenue of $30.1 billion compared to last year's $1.10 on revenue of $31.2 billion.
"HP is seeing pressure on various fronts," said Dylan Cathers, an analyst with Standard & Poor's, who has a "buy" rating on the stock with a price target of $15. "We're bullish on Windows 8," the new OS that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), the world's biggest software company, is expected to start shipping next month.
Still, HP has a nimble Chinese competitor nipping at its No. 1 status in PCs, Lenovo Group (Pink: LNVGY), which overtook Dell and reported highly profitable second-quarter results last week. HP may get a boost from Windows 8 as well as demand for new Ultrabook laptops with the new chipsets from Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), the No. 1 chipmaker.
But investors will wait to see if Whitman announces a new HP entry into the tablet sector now dominated by Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), the world's most valuable technology company. Last year, HP got in and out quickly with the TouchPad. This month, HP registered the name Gram and is believed to be shifting its Palm unit, which created the TouchPad, to operate under that name.
Meanwhile, HP is expected to report gains in sales of servers to enterprises, along with software and so-called middleware, as it tries to derive more revenue from higher-margin products than PCs and printers, where competition from Chinese manufacturers headed by Lenovo is blistering.
HP shares fell 62 cents to $19.31in Wednesday midday trading, giving ithe company a market capitalization of $38.61 billion. Shares have fallen 25 percent this year and nearly 21 percent in the past 52 weeks.
This article is copyrighted by International Business Times, the business news leader