Hewlett-Packard’s 4th-quarter profit and revenue beat estimates

In its first earnings report with Meg Whitman as chief executive, Hewlett-Packard Co. reported fiscal fourth-quarter profit and revenue that beat expectations, but cautioned that it expected a challenging 2012.

The tech giant Monday reported revenue of $32.1 billion for the three months ended Oct. 31, down 3.5% from $33.3 billion last year. Profit totaled $239 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with $2.54 billion, or $1.10, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time charges and other items, Hewlett-Packard would have earned $1.17 a share, beating the Wall Street estimate of $1.13.

Whitman said in a conference call with analysts that the Palo Alto company was focused on improving consistency and getting back to business fundamentals.


“We have unmatched strengths to build on: No. 1 or No. 2 positions in nearly all of our businesses,” she said. “I also know we didn’t live up to our expectations in 2011. We need to get back to doing what we do really well.”

The earnings capped off a tumultuous quarter for the world’s biggest seller of desktop and laptop computers.

Three months ago, when HP released its third-quarter earnings, then-CEO Leo Apotheker announced that the company was considering spinning off its PC operations. That decision and other restructuring plans were widely panned by investors, causing a sharp drop in HP’s shares.

Apotheker was ousted from the company in September after less than a year in the top job. Whitman, the former California gubernatorial candidate, was named his successor. After a strategic review, she said last month that HP would keep making personal computers.


“Over the course of last year, and certainly on our last earnings call in August, we confused customers, employees, shareholders and partners,” Whitman acknowledged Monday.

She said that many of HP’s challenges would carry over into next year and that the company was expecting declines in both revenue and profit in fiscal 2012.

HP stock closed at $26.86, down $1.13, or 4%. The shares rose 4% in extended trading after earnings were released but quickly pulled back.

“After the chaos of the last 12 months, what the company really needs is someone who can go back to basics and not drop the ball with the current business,” said Michael Holt, senior equity analyst at Morningstar Inc. Whitman “is seen as someone who can restore order.”

Like other analysts, Holt said he supported the company’s conservative fiscal full-year 2012 guidance. HP estimated earnings per share of about $3.20 and adjusted earnings of at least $4 a share.

“It’s really important that they stop missing their self-imposed goals,” Holt said.