Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Meg Whitman Era at Hewlett Packard - Six Months In

March 20 Addendum - Hewlett Packard Meg Whitman plans to combine the computing giant's PC and printing divisions in a major internal overhaul intended to spur combined sales of hardware to customers

The most recent move is intended to reap the synergies of two divisions whose hardware products are often sold side-by-side, said the second source familiar with the plan. (From Reuters)

Sounds like reductions in force ..... No economies of scale in manufacturing. No economies of scale in R&D. Do people need to upgrade their printer when they get the latest and greatest PC or laptop?

Still a B-

Original Post

Meg Whitman has now been CEO of Hewlett-Packard for six months. The scorecard? Probably a B-. It’s virtually impossible to make radical changes in 180 days unless your strategy is slash and burn. And that’s not what HP requires. HP is a $48 billion market cap firm with over 300k employees globally. This will take awhile. Whitman is saying two years.

Threats facing HP Whitman has pointed out include - PC sales are slowing as more people buy smartphones and tablets. The high-profit ink business is slipping as customers store photos on Facebook (or other sites) instead of printing them at home. HP is selling fewer high-end servers after archrival Oracle (ORCL) stopped making software for those systems.

Some immediate decisions needed to be made, quickly, when Whitman accepted the CEO position. She already was on the board. From a perception perspective, Whitman moved top executives out of their offices and into cubicles instead. This rings of the “old HP”, which is a good thing. This wasn’t seen during the Carly Fiorina era!

HP is keeping its $40 billion PC division. However, growth is projected to be in tablets. In this area, Apple has the lead over all other competitors. Tablet sales, driven by sales of Apple’s iPad, grew 274.2% to 63.2 million units last year — most of them iPads, according to tech tracker Canalys. Sales of desktop computers grew 2.3% to 112.4 million units; notebook sales grew 7.5% to 209.6 million units; and netbook sales fell 25.3% to 29.4 million units.

“PCs remain key tools for everything from video editing, music mixing, and spreadsheet crunching to thoughtful missives,” according to James Mouto, general manager for of HP’s personal computer business unit. “And if you’re sending Junior off to college, the first computing product needed for homework is a PC.”

WebOS is going open source in September, when Open WebOS 1.0 is scheduled to be released. 500 WebOS employees were let go last September. 275 of the remaining 600 employees were released in late February.

For the stock quants - the stock price is up a little over 7.4% at $24.49 (March 16) since Whitman took the CEO helm. This is far below the 52 week high of $43.28 in March 2011. Competitor Dell is up 24% and the Dow is up 23% over the same period.

HP also has heavily invested in security. This includes acquiring security management company ArcSight for $1.2 billion in 2010. This is also an area Dell has chosen to invest in. Last week they announced that they were purchasing SonicWALL®, Inc. a provider of intelligent network security and data protection solutions. They are acquiring SonicWall from private equity investor firm Thoma Bravo for an estimated price of $1.2 billion.

It should be an interesting next 6 months for Whitman as she works with the rest of management to turn HP around. Her salary? $1. Yes, there are incentives and stock options.

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