HP NEARS GOAL OF OVERTAKING I.B.M.
HP NEARS GOAL OF OVERTAKING I.B.M.
2006-08-22 at 12:56:00 pm #16187
Hewlett-Packard Nears Goal of Overtaking I.B.M.
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 06 — Continuing to grow at a pace that will enable it to usurp I.B.M.’s title as the world’s largest technology company, Hewlett-Packard reported quarterly earnings on Wednesday that exceeded analysts’ expectations.Revenue in its third quarter rose to $21.9 billion, up 5 percent or $1.1 billion from a year ago. At this rate of growth, most Hewlett-Packard executives think the company could take I.B.M.’s long-held title this year. Mark V. Hurd, the chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, said he expected revenue of $92.1 billion for the year. Analysts expect I.B.M.’s full-year revenue will be $89.9 billion.On a trailing 12-month basis, H.P. already has the title, $90 billion to $88.5 billion. “This is something that people really didn’t see coming,” said Cindy Shaw, an analyst with Moors & Cabot Investments.Hewlett-Packard reported third-quarter net income of $1.38 billion, or 48 cents a share, compared with $73 million, or 3 cents a share, a year earlier. Before adjustments, income was 52 cents a share, exceeding analysts’ expectations by 5 cents.The 2005 quarter was affected by a larger-than-normal provision for taxes of $960 million resulting from the company’s decision to repatriate $14.5 billion in cash from foreign earnings. In terms of operating income, the company reported a 65.4 percent improvement year over year.Hewlett-Packard’s sure-footedness impressed analysts. “Almost everyone else seems to be tripping over themselves or going out of their way to cite problems in the overall economic environment, but H.P. is doing neither,” said Laura Conigliaro, a Goldman Sachs analyst.Hewlett-Packard beat analysts’ estimates for net income, as it has done every quarter since Mr. Hurd took the top job early last year. “That consistency is something that investors really like,” said A. M. Sacconaghi, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Company.The company also announced that it would buy back $6 billion in stock, its largest repurchase ever, representing more than 6 percent of its shares at current prices. The stock rose about 6 percent in after-hours trading. Before the earnings announcement, it ended the regular session at $34.43, up 44 cents.After restructuring the company and doing some major cost-cutting in personnel and real estate, Mr. Hurd has in recent months been pushing his executives to seek more revenue growth. He said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters that the company would continue to trim costs as it fostered growth. “Costs and growth are different sides of the same coin,” he said. “We will spend money to save money and save money to spend money. We will never be done looking at our cost structure.”Not only did the company see higher companywide operating margins — the percentage of revenue left over after production and overhead costs — of 6.9 percent, but even previously lagging divisions, like services and software, were finally seeing profitable revenue growth.One of the biggest surprises was how profitable the company’s computer division was in a very competitive market in which Dell, the company’s chief rival, was cutting prices of PC’s. Hewlett-Packard said the division’s operating profit margin was 4 percent, the highest it has been since the merger with Compaq in 2002.Revenue from PC’s grew 8 percent, to $6.9 billion, with strong growth of 14 percent in the sales of notebook computers. “I was particularly pleased because this is our seasonally weakest quarter,” Mr. Hurd said.The company’s computer division grew much faster than the comparable results that Dell is expected to report Thursday. Dell has said that it expected revenue growth of about 4.3 percent from a year ago.This quarter’s results confirmed that Hewlett-Packard is doing more than profiting from Dell’s mistakes. Dell is having no impact on Hewlett-Packard. “It shows that through restructuring and execution, H.P. has significantly changed the competitive landscape,” William Shope, an analyst with J. P. Morgan, said. “A lot of people were concerned that Dell’s woes would spread to H.P., but we are not seeing any signs of that.”The printing and imaging division continued to be the cash-generating engine of the company. Revenue grew 5 percent, to $6.2 billion. An operating margin of 14.2 percent was lower than last quarter, but the company had been saying it would lower margins to increase the sales of printers that use a lot of ink. Printer shipments were up 15 percent over all and up 23 percent in the commercial segment. The company makes its highest profit margin on ink and toner sales, and strong sales of printers in this quarter will lead to future strong sales of ink.Hewlett-Packard also said it ended the quarter with $16 billion in cash. It had free cash flow, or cash from operations after capital expenditure, so far this year of $8.1 billion, “a full-year record in just three quarters,” Mr. Hurd said. Hewlett-Packard intends to use some of that cash for the $4.5 billion acquisition of Mercury Interactive, a business software company. H.P. is also hiring more sales representatives for its efforts to expand in services and commercial printing.Ms. Conigliaro said the company could continue to achieve its target of 4 to 6 percent revenue growth without more major acquisitions. But she said that over the longer term the company would need acquisitions to sustain growth.