HP's Strong Earnings Kicks Off the Leo Apotheker Era

New CEO starts his tenure at the helm of the computer giant with a strong earnings report that beat analyst's expectations.
Posted November 22, 2010

David Needle

HP's (NYSE: HPQ) new CEO Leo Apotheker is hitting the ground running (and not from Oracle).

The computer giant reported earnings per-share of $1.33 on revenue of $33.3 billion for the fiscal fourth quarter of 2010. Those results beat the forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters who had been expecting earnings of $1.27 a share on revenue of $32.75 billion.

For the full fiscal year, HP reported net revenue of $126 billion, up ten percent from the year before (or up 8 percent adjusted for currency changes). HP reported an operating profit of $11.5 billion compared to $14.4 billion in the prior year.

Enterprise products and services played a key role in HP's upside results. The Enterprise Storage and Servers (ESS) division reported total revenue of $5.3 billion in the fourth quarter, up 25 percent from the year-earlier period. HP's Industry Standard Server revenue increased 32 percent, and storage revenue was up 14 percent. Other enterprise segments of note include Business Critical Systems revenue (up 10 percent) and ESS blade revenue (up 51 percent). Operating profit came in at $730 million, or 13.9 percent of revenue, and up $481 million from a year ago.

Following the release of earnings, Apotheker's appearance on the conference call with analysts was his first public appearance since Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) tried unsuccessfully to serve him with a subpoena in its case versus Apotheker's former employer SAP (NYSE: SAP) over the theft of Oracle's copyrighted material by a now defunct subsidiary TomorrowNow. Apotheker, SAP's former co-CEO, gave a video deposition in the case two years ago that HP said was sufficient.

Apotheker didn't address the Oracle/SAP case during the call, but did confirm he was at HP's headquarters in Palo Alto and told the analysts that he looked forward to meeting with investors in the coming months.

HP also said its software revenue increased about 1 percent to $974 million in the quarter, while its Business Technology Optimization revenue increased 4 percent and the company saw a drop of 6 percent in revenue from the catch-all "other software" category. Operating profit in software was $247 million, up from $234 million from year ago. HP has said it wants to move aggressively into the software space, one of the reasons Apotheker was hired to replace former CEO Mark Hurd.

"HP proved once again that it is able to execute given its market strengths and technology leadership," Apotheker said in a statement. "I have seen firsthand that we have talented people who are focused on delivering value for our customers. Our market opportunity is vast, and I am confident that we will extend our leadership into the future."

Another strong area of investment for HP, services, did not see big growth in the quarter. HP said services revenue increased 0.4 percent to $9 billion for the quarter.

Operating profit was $1.5 billion, or 16.7 percent of revenue, up from $1.4 billion, or 16.2 percent of revenue, in the prior-year period.

HP noted that it continues to hold the leading market share in PC shipments worldwide and increased unit shipments by 2 percent in the quarter. Revenue from HP's Personal Systems Group increased 4 percent to $10.3 billion in the quarter. While desktop revenue increased 13 percent, notebook revenue was down 3 percent from a year ago. HP did much better on the enterprise side, with commercial client revenue up 20 percent and consumer client revenue down 10 percent. Operating profit in PSG improved to $568 million, up from $460 million last year.

HP's Imaging and Printing Group (IPG) reported that revenue increased 8 percent to $7 billion in the fourth quarter.

Leo Apotheker on HP's opportunities

On the conference call, Apotheker emphasized HP's strengths and opportunities, particular in software and cloud computing.

"HP has many strengths and is a formidable company," he said. "Our greatest strength is the opportunity we have with our size and strength … in emerging markets and as a solutions provider. Bear in mind that technology trends are morphing rapidly and we at HP have the opportunity to extend our leadership position."

"The net of it all," he added, "is that I believe we're extremely well positioned across all our areas and we have a secret formula. We're the only company that's equally good on the consumer and enterprise side and if we can cycle consumer innovation to enterprise, that's an immense competitive advantage and that's why we have to spend a little more money on R&D."

On the cloud computing side, Apotheker said customers are in different stages of adoption and that HP is uniquely positioned to address their needs whether it's for a hosted, public or hybrid cloud solution. "Customers are not all looking for cloud solutions in exactly the same way," he said. "What they really want is a partner that can help them be more productive in a 24 x 7 world."

Looking ahead, HP said it expects revenue for fiscal 2011 to fall in the range $132 billion to $133.5 billion, with GAAP diluted EPS in the range of $4.42 to $4.52, and non-GAAP diluted EPS in the range of $5.16 to $5.26. The GAAP and non-GAAP diluted EPS includes a one-time gain of approximately $0.04 per share primarily related to the disposition of real estate.

HP's stock was up 0.90 percent to $43.66 in after-hours trading.

Updated to included comments by Apotheker to analyst's during the conference call.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: Oracle, earnings, HP, PC sales, Leo Apotheker

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