Analysts say HP is well-positioned to benefit from an expected surge in enterprise technology spending in 2010, as businesses replace aging equipment. The company said the so-called refresh cycle is underway, with more strength anticipated in the back half of the year.
Its profitable printing business rebounded from a slump during the recession, with sales rising 4 percent in the fiscal first quarter, and higher-margin supplies revenue growing 1 percent. Sales of laser printers, however, were hurt by supply constraints.
HP's server business benefited from higher average prices. Revenue from industry standard servers surged 27 percent.
HP, which under Chief Executive Mark Hurd has pursued multibillion-dollar acquisitions to move into higher-margin business such as IT services, has met or beaten Wall Street earnings expectations every quarter for more than two years.
For 2010, it forecast earnings, excluding items, of $4.37 to $4.44 a share on revenue of $121.5 billion to $122.5 billion, up from its previous estimate of $4.25 to $4.35 a share on $118 billion to $119 billion.
Collins Stewart analyst Louis Miscioscia said the hardware business outperformed his expectations.
IT (information technology) is starting to come back. We're seeing it right now in the numbers here. I think 2010 is going to be a good year for tech, he said.
In a sign of improving corporate demand, data storage equipment manufacturer NetApp Inc also issued forecasts on Wednesday that were ahead of expectations.
HP generates more than three-fifths of its revenue internationally, and the company said sales from fast-growing emerging countries Brazil, Russia, India and China leapt 41 percent from a year earlier. But Europe remained be weak, with sales up a mere 1 percent.
Domestically, you have some of the macro headwinds subsiding. Europe is still a wild card, but the strength in emerging markets more than offsets any weakness, said Northeast Securities analyst Ashok Kumar.
HP, the world's top PC vendor, saw revenue in that segment rise 20 percent. Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak noted that PC revenue in China alone nearly doubled in the quarter.
We executed very well, especially in the hardware business, Lesjak said in an interview.
POISED FOR THE REBOUND?
Shares of the world's largest technology company by sales climbed 1 percent in after-hours trading on Wednesday.
HP's gross margin for the quarter came in at 22.8 percent, down from last year and below analysts' forecasts, due to strength in lower-margin PC and printer hardware.
HP reported net income of $2.3 billion, or 96 cents a share, in its fiscal first quarter ended January 31, up from $1.9 billion, or 75 cents a share, in the year-ago period.
Excluding items, it earned $1.10 a share, beating the average Wall Street estimate of $1.06 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Net revenue rose 8 percent to $31.2 billion, versus the average analyst forecast of $30 billion.
HP ranks No. 1 or 2 in a diverse array of technology segments, including PCs, services, printers and servers, following several high-profile buys spearheaded by Hurd including 3Com in 2009 and a $13 billion deal for Electronic Data Systems in 2008.
Hurd, who succeeded Carly Fiorina in 2005 and has earned a reputation on Wall Street as an aggressive cost-cutter, has kept the company focused on integrating its purchases and weaning away expenses.
Personal computers make up roughly a third of HP's sales, with services accounting for another 30 percent. The printing segment comprises about a fifth of HP's revenue, but provided around 30 percent of its operating profit last year.
HP shares are up around 45 percent from a year ago, versus a roughly 40 percent rise for arch-rival International Business Machines Corp .
Shares of Palo Alto, California-based HP closed at $50.12 on the New York Stock Exchange and rose to $50.56 in extended trading.
(Additional reporting and editing by Edwin Chan; Editing by Richard Chang)