Shares of Hewlett-Packard Co were down 2 percent in premarket trading on Thursday after the world's No. 1 computer maker posted a sharp decline in quarterly earnings and warned it would take several years to turn around its sprawling businesses.

The storied Silicon Valley company, which has been trying to move past the internal upheaval that marked 2011, on Wednesday said earnings fell nearly 44 percent and forecast a second-quarter profit below Wall Street estimates as it battles with weak sales of PCs and printers.

The revenue shortfall in its personal computers unit and significant sequential margin deterioration in every business raise questions about the competitiveness, cost structure, and secular pressures in HP's business segments, analysts at Morgan Stanley wrote.

Wall Street analysts fear that the multiple pressures that weighed on margins -- including yen strength, competitive hardware pricing and the ongoing HP Services restructuring -- are more than one-quarter issues, and could continue into coming quarters.

Earlier this week, Dell Inc, the world's No. 3 personal computer maker, also posted fiscal fourth-quarter earnings below analysts' expectations and forecast fiscal first-quarter revenue below estimates, stoking fears the PC industry has not fully emerged from its downturn.

While Dell did not have a particularly good January earnings call and in our opinion left a great deal of ambiguity in terms of the forces that impacted the January quarter, we believe HP's report, by comparison, was worse, said BMO Capital Markets' analyst Keith Bachman.

Bachman cut his price target on HP's stock to $33 from $35.


On Wednesday, HP's Chief Executive Meg Whitman, who has been trying to turn around the company's many businesses after taking over the top job last September, said the turnaround could take anywhere from two to five years.

But analysts at J.P. Morgan Securities raised concerns that a host of company, secular, and macroeconomic-related risks will defer any measurable progress on the turnaround story, adding these factors will underpin below-peer revenue and earnings growth potential.

JP Morgan analysts rate the stock underweight.

Of the 24 analysts covering HP, 18 rate it a hold, five a sell, six a strong buy, and five a buy, with a mean price target of $30.40, according to Thomson Reuters' StarMine data.

Shares of HP, which closed at $28.94 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange, were trading down at $28.50 before the bell on Thursday.