HP to pull trigger early on results after CEO memo

Tue May 17, 2011 12:02am EDT

* HP, Dell to report fiscal Q2 Tuesday, May 17

* Apotheker warns of tough quarter in leaked memo

* Results may again underscore shrinking consumer PC sales

* Enterprise strong, HP expectations low

By Poornima Gupta

SAN FRANCISCO, May 17 (Reuters) - Hewlett-Packard Co will try to dispel fears it faces even rockier times ahead when it reports earnings a day ahead of schedule, with Wall Street expecting decent results as corporate spending rebounds.

HP shares fell more than 4 percent Monday in extended trading after Bloomberg cited CEO Leo Apotheker warning his executives in an internal memo of "another tough quarter" and asking them to "watch every penny and minimize all hiring." [ID:nN1679001]

It will now report results Tuesday morning before market hours, rather than Wednesday. The world's largest technology company by revenue will be going in with sharply lowered expectations after having trimmed sales forecasts in March.

The memo leaked to Bloomberg stoked fears the company -- grappling with new rivals from Cisco Systems Inc to Oracle Corp , limp consumer spending on PCs, and a potentially costly expansion into cloud computing -- is worse off than feared.

But analysts say Wall Street had factored all that in, plus the need to rein in costs further, while waiting to see if Apotheker's plans to rekindle growth will bear fruit.

"This is business as usual," said Brian Marshall with Gleacher & Co. "We already knew that. No one is looking for (stellar) revenue growth."

A decent set of financial results on Wednesday is likely to give HP's anemic stock a jolt as the shares have slid 17 percent in the past three months. They are far cheaper on forward price-earnings than International Business Machines , Oracle and longtime rival Dell Inc .

For a table comparing HP's key metrics against its rivals: r.reuters.com/gas59r

TURNAROUND IN FOCUS

Investors now look for signs HP is making progress on a growth blueprint laid out in March.[ID:nN14172680]

Apotheker, who took the helm in September, aims to boost earnings and dividends by pushing into sectors such as cloud computing, where services are hosted from data centers.

Andrew Fitzpatrick, director of investment at Hinsdale Associates, said it is still too early to tell if he will be able to steer the company in a new direction.

"I haven't seen any real positive developments there yet," said Fitzpatrick, who holds HP shares.

But "I like Hewlett-Packard stock right now," he added. "There is some potential to unlock some value there."

Analysts think HP will earn earnings of $1.21 a share on revenue of $31.5 billion for the second quarter.

While IT services and printing yield nearly half of HP's revenue and two-thirds of operating profit, strength in the quarter could come from storage and servers, analysts say.

Both HP and Dell have benefited from the corporate refresh cycle, where companies spend billions to upgrade aging IT hardware. Oracle's results showed businesses were spending on IT again [ID:nN1996269]. But a surprise decline in rival IBM's transactional signings, which indicate new business, did not bode well for HP.[ID:nN1959077]

HP's and Dell's results -- which now come on the same day -- will also be scrutinized for more signs of weakening demand in the personal computer sector.

"I am looking to find out how they intend on implementing some of the ideas that were put forward recently," said Michael Yoshikami, chief executive of YCMNET Advisors. (Editing by Edwin Chan and Bernard Orr)