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Street Starts Agitating To Break Up HP

HP's shares are down 40% so far this year, 70% in the last two years

A pack of Wall Street analysts led by UBS’ Steve Milunovich, having little or no faith in Meg Whitman’s Mao-like five-year turnaround plan, has begun saying that HP has no alternative but to split into an enterprise company and a PC company.

HP abandoned the notion after it fired Whitman’s predecessor Leo Apotheker for suggesting it, arguing that customers want one HP and the two sides are deeply integrated.

Milunovich, who invokes the hallowed names of Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett to support of his position, reckons that if HP doesn’t act, a leveraged buyout specialist or a bunch of activist investors or a combination of the two is gonna come along, accumulate large stakes in the company, and pressure management and the board to dismantle the business.

Meg doesn’t have the luxury of time to pursue her languid five-year plan. He thinks she has less than two years “to show substantial progress.”

“In our view, full value won’t be realized by just improving operations – structural change is required,” he said. “Based on HP’s history, we think Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard would support this approach.”

He told CNBC Monday HP could unlock upwards of $5 a share in value by breaking up its divisions.

Its shares are down 40% so far this year, 70% in the last two years.

“We’re really trying to put a stake in the ground this time, though, and say that it’s just increasingly making too much sense,” he said. “Basically, the worst parts of the business are dragging the better ones down. So while there’s no silver bullet, we still think at the end of the day it’s going to be worth more broken up than whole.”

Last week, Milunovich had his eye on HP’s $11 billion in term debt, which comes due in the next couple of years. HP’s overall debt now stands at $20 billion, up $8 billion in the last year.

He thinks one thing the company might do to peel off its financial services unit, a strategic asset that’s carrying about $10 billion in customer debt, and suggests that HP might partner with Dell in some kind of joint financing venture.

HP closed down another 1.83% to $14.46 Monday. Milunovich believes HP is worth $20-$25 a share.

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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