Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), the world's biggest computer company, reported third-quarter financials after the market close Wednesday, taking a record charge of $10.8 billion that resulted in a net loss of $8.9 billion, or $4.49 a share.
But the charges appear to be over and the company also reported revenue of $29.7 billion, about $500 million below estimates, as the No. 1 maker of PCs reported sales of PCs slid about 10 percent over the year-earlier quarter.
Earnings from operations were $2 billion, or $1 a share, two cents above estimates. Including the charges, the net loss was $8.9 billion, or $4.49 a share, reversing prior-year net income of $1.9 billion, or 93 cents a share.
The company also forecast lower-than-forecast expectations for full-year results. On an operating basis, they should range around $4.06 a share. The full-year loss, for writeoffs of acquisitions and severance of as many as 14,000 employees will lead to a full-year loss around $2.24 a share.
The news sent HP shares up about 2 percent after hours, to $19.55, up 35 cents.
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.
"We're making decent progress," Whitman said when the results were announced.
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 Party line, implemented a series of smaller measures, including promoting longtime software boss Bill Veghte to chief operating officer, a job HP had lacked for years.
She also replaced printers chief Vyomesh Joshi with Todd Bradley, head of the PC unit, who now oversees both operations.
As well, Whitman, a Princeton economics graduate with a Master's Degree in Business Administration from Harvard, has also taken mega-charges for prior acquisitions, notably including Compaq Computer Corp. in 2001 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 10 percent of the payroll.
That's why third quarter net income is expected to nearly evaporate to only 2 cents a share compared with 93 cents a year ago, although earnings from continuing operations are expected to be 98 cents on revenue of $30.1 billion compared with last year's $1.10 on revenue of $31.2 billion.
"HP is seeing pressure on various fronts," said Dylan Cathers, 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, it got in and out with the TouchPad. This month, HP registered the name Gram and is believed to be shifting its Palm unit that created 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 closed at $19.20, down 73 cents, or nearly 4 percent, in Wednesday trading, giving it a market capitalization of $37.8 billion. Shares have fallen nearly 26 percent this year and nearly 22 percent in the past 52 weeks.
David Zielenziger is a veteran editor and journalist who has written for newspapers including the Baltimore Sun, Asian Wall Street Journal and EETimes, as well as for...