Uneven Results Complicate HP Turnaround Efforts

HP CEO Meg Whitman

HP CEO Meg Whitman

The bleeding appears to have stopped at Hewlett-Packard Co., with revenues and profits mostly in line with expectations and senior executives trumpeting successful turnaround efforts at the beleaguered company. But a mixed bag of results among HP’s individual business units continues to give the channel pause about a vendor partner who may be steering the right course but is still far from fully righting the ship.

HP on Tuesday reported a 2.8 percent drop in Q4 revenues $29 billion, along with a 13 percent drop in earnings per share. The Palo Alto, Calif. company managed a profit of $1.4 billion significantly better than the $6.9 billion loss in took a year ago, mostly due to the massive write-down associated with its ill-advised acquisition of software-maker Autonomy.

While far from stellar, the results were good enough to narrowly top most Wall Street analysts’ already tepid estimates for HP, which continues to be pounded by lackluster sales of traditional IT hardware like desktop PCs and laptops in the era of mobility and cloud computing.

“While we still have much more work to do, our business units and their core assets are delivering on HP’s strategy to help customers thrive by providing solutions for the new style of IT,” Whitman said.

Part of that work will involve either re-energizing or scuttling HP’s once-formidable personal systems unit, where desktops predictably lost another 2 percent in the quarter despite already being near historic lows. The news for the PSG unit might have been worse if not for a slight 3 percent uptick in Q4 laptop sales. One bright note for B2B reseller partners, the results in the personal systems group showed a 4-percent increase in commercial revenue and a 10-percent drop in consumer revenue.

Printing revenues, once a mainstay of HP’s financials, also fell 1 percent. Commercial printers, however, posted a 9 percent gain, though sales of supplies were off 4 percent.

While the decline in PC units and peripherals was anticipated, the more troubling news in the Q4 report came from HP’s services and software units which each lost 9 percent from the year-ago quarter. Those results are particularly disheartening for partners, many of whom have expressed hope of the past year that these businesses would be integral to HP’s turnaround.

In the services realm, application and business services revenue was down 10 percent, and infrastructure technology outsourcing revenue dipped 9 percent.

Leading declines in software was a 24 percent plummet in license revenue and a 13 percent drop in related professional services. The overall unit results might have been worse if not for a 15 percent increase in sales of SaaS products.

The news was slightly better in the enterprise group for sales of HP’s server and storage wares, another area of key interest to the channel that’s seen as a bellwether for the vendor’s overall health and long-term viability. Sales of enterprise-grade hardware inched up 2 percent, the first increase for the segment in more than two years. HP officials said the server and storage growth came as the result of more focused sales and marketing.