Hewlett-Packard meets lowered goals

The Associated Press
Friday February 16, 2001

PALO ALTO — First-quarter net earnings plunged 59 percent at Hewlett-Packard Co., but the high-tech bellwether still met Wall Street’s lowered expectations Thursday. 

“Clearly, this was a tough quarter and our results reflect that,” said Carly Fiorina, HP’s president, chief executive and chairwoman. The company also is at the mercy of worsening economic conditions, she said. 

In the three months ending Jan. 31, HP had net profits of $328 million, or 17 cents per share, down from $794 million, or 38 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue rose just 2 percent, to $11.9 billion. 

Excluding all extraordinary items, the computer and printer giant earned $727 million, or 37 cents per share, down 33 percent from $825 million, or 40 cents per share, a year ago. 

Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial were expecting earnings of 37 cents per share this quarter – a figure that had been 5 cents per share higher until HP warned last month that the worldwide economic slowdown was hurting business more than expected. 

North American revenues dropped 6 percent, a trend Fiorina blamed on “continued deterioration in the U.S. economy and related weakness in consumer and business (information-technology) spending.” 

Specifically, demand was weak for HP’s desktop computers and printers, a trend felt throughout the industry. HP’s computing systems business, which includes PCs and servers, lost $19 million after earning $110 million in the first quarter of 2000. 

“I think of the big four (PC makers), they seem to have fared the worst,” said industry analyst Steve Kleynhans, a vice president at the Meta Group in Stamford, Conn. Part of that, he noted, is that the competition – Dell Computer Corp., IBM Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp. – were struggling at the beginning of 2000 and “spent the last year probably trying a little harder.” 

Shares of Hewlett-Packard, which is a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, rose $1.96 to $36.35 Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange, a gain of nearly 6 percent. After the earnings announcement, HP shares dropped to $34.50 in after-hours trading. 

While the “ongoing economic uncertainty” is most visible in this country, Fiorina said the company also could be hurt in markets that rely heavily on exports to the United States, such as Mexico.  

With that in mind, she said the company was not expecting a return to double-digit revenue growth this year. 

HP did not offer specific profit forecasts, though Chief Financial Officer Bob Wayman indicated that analysts should consider lowering their expectations. 

“Certainly, we are not comfortable with the guidance that is out there at this time,” he said. 

This was the first earnings report since HP fell a hefty dime per share short of Wall Street expectations for the fourth quarter. That disappointing result led to tough questions about Fiorina’s strategy at the proud Silicon Valley institution. 

“They’ve had a lot of issues over the last six months,” Kleynhans said.  

“They don’t appear to have a really solid direction or brand as a company of exactly what they want to do, where they want to go. They seem to be a little shellshocked from the challenges they faced in the fourth quarter.” 


Other lingering challenges were apparent in the company’s first-quarter results. 

The company took a charge of $365 million, or 15 cents per share, because of losing investments in companies in emerging markets. HP also took a charge of $102 million, or 3 cents per share, when it cut 1,700 marketing jobs — a rare instance of layoffs in the company’s history. 


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