Hewlett-Packard Company (HPQ) Beats Street, but Whitman Misses

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Not much was expected ahead of Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ)‘s fiscal Q1 earnings report. The company’s CEO, Meg Whitman, had already tossed the kitchen sink out the window for all of 2013. The Street had already priced in the many challenges and deficits that this company needs to correct. Still, investors were nonetheless looking for validation that these shares were as cheap as they appeared. In many respects, HP delivered.

Good start to long journey
Revenue arrived at $28.4 billion, falling 6% year over year, and 5% sequentially. However, this was enough to top Street estimates of $27.79 billion. For that matter, revenue was down across all segments. Again, this is not a surprise, given Whitman’s prior comments. But remarkably, the networking division did well — posting 4% year-over-year growth. While this should be celebrated, it’s not as if Cisco Systems, Inc. has been actively pursuing new hardware business. For that matter, this is an area where HP should see some improvement going forward.

Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ)Meanwhile, software revenue plummeted 21% sequentially, and 2% year over year. This is important to note, because it contradicts Whitman, who, while offering guidance in a conversation with CNBC, told investors to expect revenue declines across all segments this year except software. She was wrong. I recently discussed Whitman’s managerial ability, and suggested that she deserves the benefit of the doubt, but these conflicting results don’t support notions that she has a firm handle on what ails the company. She also went on to say that investors should begin to see revenue growth by 2014. How much of this should be believed?

As expected, the PC business dropped roughly 8% year over year, and 6% sequentially. But the rate of the drop was 6% slower than in Q4 (14%). But don’t mistake this for a slowdown in PC sales. These numbers are encouraging, yes. But HP’s coming off a holiday quarter that coincided with the release of its new Ultrabook, which featured Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)‘s new Windows 8 operating system. And it’s not as if Microsoft has been impressed with consumers’ acceptance of its new flagship software. It’s not great for HP when the world’s dominant PC software maker puts out an operating system that no one likes. But for HP, any sign of progress should be welcomed.

In that regard, the rest of the business segments, although unimpressive, were not any worse off than before. Printing revenue fell 5%, which is consistent with the prior quarter. Likewise, consolidated servers/storage revenue fell 4%, which is 5% slower than Q4 (9%). But it fell by 6% on a sequential basis. This means that HP has been unable to exploit the recent declines of International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) and Dell Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL) in servers and storage. Despite this weakness, the company did well where it matters the most — in profitability.

Non-GAAP earnings per share arrived at $0.82. While this is down 11% year over year, it beat Street estimates of $0.71 per share, while topping HP’s prior EPS guidance of $0.68. For that matter, the outlook for fiscal 2013 arrived better than expected. HP projects earnings of $2.30 to $2.50 per share, which is a raise from the previous guidance of $2.10 to $2.30 per share. Moreover, the company sees adjusted EPS to come in between $3.40 and $3.60 — higher than Street estimates of $3.32 per share.

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