UPDATE 4-HP raises 2011 outlook, Apotheker stresses software

Mon Nov 22, 2010 5:47pm EST

* Investors' eyes on CEO Apotheker

* Raises fiscal year 2011 forecast

* Shares up 1.6 percent (Adds details from report, analyst comments)

By Gabriel Madway

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Hewlett Packard Co (HPQ.N) raised its fiscal 2011 revenue and earnings forecasts after strong commercial computer and storage sales led to better-than-expected quarterly results.

Shares in the No. 1 technology company by sales climbed 1.6 percent. The bellwether did not appear to show any ill effects from the internal turmoil that has enveloped the company since August, beginning with the abrupt departure of former chief Mark Hurd.

Wall Street, however, is less focused on HP's results than they are on getting a better fix on new CEO Leo Apotheker, who started Nov. 1, analysts say.

Apotheker joked on a conference call with the media that he may have set a world record for travel over past weeks as he jets around the globe to familiarize himself with HP's sprawling business.

He provided few details about his vision for HP except to reaffirm that software, now a tiny slice of the company's business, and research spending will be a central theme.

"We do need to have a strong and viable and vibrant software business," Apotheker said.

Some analysts say his most immediate task may be to restore stability and poise following a tumultuous four months that saw Hurd's departure and a nasty spat with one-time partner Oracle Corp ORCL.O. [ID:nN28140915]

Executives also did not highlight any impact from the government spending woes that plagued rival Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O), assuaging fears that public sector budget cuts were beginning to hurt technology providers.

"Demand is not as bad as people had thought. After Cisco guided cautiously, people got nervous. Now it appears demand is not as bad," said Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Kaushik Roy.

For a graphic on HP's performance versus its rivals and the S&P 500, please click on r.reuters.com/dyr66q

ELECTRICITY

HP's fiscal fourth-quarter results are another opportunity for Apotheker, a former SAP AG (SAPG.DE) CEO, to make an impression on the analysts and investors whom he so far has failed to electrify.

The German executive also addressed analysts on a conference call on Monday.

Revenue in storage and servers surged 25 percent. Sales in the PC group rose only 4 percent, but revenue from commercial PCs rose 20 percent and margins in the business were vastly improved on better pricing and component costs.

It reported an adjusted operating margin of 12 percent, up slightly from last year and in line with Wall Street's targets, as component costs weakened, something rival Dell Inc DELL.O had mentioned last week as shoring up its own profits.

"There seems to be some worry that server demand is all caught up from the recession, but it doesn't look like it. Not with them posting 25 percent growth in enterprise systems," said First American Funds analyst Jane Snorek.

Performance in the crucial printing and services segments, which provide the foundation for HP's recurring revenue and profit streams, was solid, but did not stand out. Services revenue was flat, while print revenue rose 8 percent.

The world's No. 1 PC maker reported net earnings for the fiscal fourth quarter ended Oct. 31 of $2.54 billion, or $1.10 a share, up from $2.41 billion, or 99 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned $1.33 a share, better than the average analyst estimate of $1.27 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue rose 8 percent to $33.3 billion, above Wall Street's estimate of $32.75 billion.

The company also raised its fiscal 2011 forecast. It now expects earnings excluding items of $5.16 to $5.26 a share on revenue of $132 billion to $133.5 billion.

Shares of Palo Alto, California-based HP closed at $43.25 and rose to $43.94 in extended trading. (Reporting by Gabriel Madway and Edwin Chan. Editing by Robert MacMillan)