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Meg Hangs Black Crepe over HP; Stock Dives

CEO Whitman confessed that HP’s so-called turnaround is going to take longer than expected – maybe into 2015, or 2016, or 2017

There was no good news coming out of HP’s meeting with Wall Street analysts Wednesday – at least no good news in anything resembling real- time – as indicated by its stock price.

It’s been beaten up for the last two years – ever since the board lost Mark Hurd to Oracle – and Wednesday the stock collapsed another 9.84% to $15.44, a price below its book value., its lowest point in nine years with another 30% or 50% more to go, they were saying on CNBC. That would mean $7-$10.

And that’s because CEO Meg Whitman – whose watch has lost HP a third of its value – confessed that the company’s so-called turnaround is going to take longer than expected – maybe into 2015, or 2016, or 2017 – and that there are “no silver bullets” to fix its problems.

Meanwhile, revenue and profits its next fiscal year, which starts November 1, will drop in the face of a worsening macroeconomy.

The only market segment HP’s in that won’t see a decline is software, which doesn’t bring in that much money. Mostly the plunge will be in the Enterprise Services Group, where EDS lives, which is supposed to see revenues drop 11%-13%. (And EDS has already cost HP a $10.8 billion write-off plus the billions it cost to buy it.)

That means operating margins will be depressed across-the-board to 0-3%.

The company Wednesday lowered its guidance to $2.10-$2.30 a share for next year. That translates into $3.40 to $3.60 a share excluding restructuring and other items when Wall Street expected $4.18 on HP’s prior forecast of 4.05-$4.07.

Meg and company figure revenue won’t grow faster than cost until fiscal 2015 but things will still be shaky then.

Whitman blamed the coming and going of chief executives, the flight of executive leadership, the inconsistent strategies that resulted and “some significant executional miscues” of the last couple of years for the fact that it’ll take “longer to right this ship.”

She said HP has too many products – 2,100 printers alone – and doesn’t work hard enough to get its ideas into the marketplace to “move the needle.”

So HP is going to be putting more money into R&D while it weeds its product lines in search of a cost structure that works. The company is gonna be chasing after “cloud, security, information.” China is deemed an important market where HP must succeed but it’s “definitely slowed down.”

She claims that since she took over a year ago it’s been a matter of trying to stabilize the company; 2013 will be a “fix and rebuild year.” It’ll still take until the end of FY14 for HP to hit its saving targets. And it’s depending on the savings wrung from its restructuring and laying off 29,000 people to offset the headwinds.

Oh, by the way, she’s figured out what HP is. It used to be a printing company and it’s still betting big on the ink business, but now it’s a “diversified IT company” whose core business is “infrastructure and hardware,” which bring in 70% of its revenue.

“The good news is that we are number one or two in each of the major markets and we can leverage that position in areas like supply chain and distribution,” she said. They’ve also apparently agreed on strategies across business units.

Internally she’s moved HP’s CRM system to Salesforce.com, which must be the giant deal Salesforce has been muttering about and next year managers of HP’s top 200 accounts will get back revenue and profit responsibility.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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