Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

Summary: Analysts blast HP's transformation moves and the way they were carried out. Biggest beef: The pricey acquisition of Autonomy.


HP's trio of bold decisions---discontinuing WebOS devices, spinning off the PC unit and a $10 billion acquisition of Autonomy---was universally panned by Wall Street analysts.

In some cases, analysts can be accused of Monday morning quarterbacking. In HP's case, the reaction to Leo Apotheker's moves (Techmeme, CNET roundup, HP topic page) to transform the company equate to Friday morning target practice.

The biggest beef with HP was its acquisition of Autonomy, which drains the balance sheet and will take years to pay off based on internal rate of return (IRR) calculations. IRR metrics are used to justify investments.

Also: ZDNet AU: Retailer blasts HP's handling of TouchPad, stops selling it

Meanwhile, HP's transformation moves are coming from a position of weakness. In other words, HP's prospects will get worse before any improvement.

Here's a sampling of analyst comments:

Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore said:

HP also announced plans to acquire Autonomy, an enterprise software company based in the UK for ~$42 per share which we believe will destroy shareholder value (IRR of ~1-2% and HP cost of capital ~8%). While we believe the shift in focus to higher margin Software and Services has some strategic merit, we are concerned about HP’s growing track record of paying large premiums for assets. Further, the timing of this large acquisition (deteriorating macro environment) leaves HP’s balance sheet relatively leveraged entering this slowdown and poorly positioned to act on other, perhaps ‘cheaper’ transactions.

Whitmore gave HP shares a $20 price target. HP would have been better off buying back shares with its $10 billion in cash. He added that HP is 'juggling in a wind tunnel.' Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu said HP left its PC unit twisting in the wind:

At $40 billion in annual revenue, its PC operation is about 30% of total revenue and 16% of profits. Over the next 12-18 months, HP commented that this business will undergo a strategic review to determine whether it should be split, spun-off, and/or sold. While we agree with the strategic rationale, we see three looming issues including: (1) uncertainty surrounding its PC operation that will likely put stress on its PC financials that are still material; (2) depressed valuation in the event of a sale or spin-off as everyone knows it’s for sale; and (3) bundling opportunities become limited potentially impacting overall revenue.

Wu's other beef is that HP had a clear spin off playbook to follow. Motorola outlined the steps when it spun off Motorola Mobility. IBM also followed a good course with the sale of its PC unit to Lenovo. HP's PC unit spin-off plans---preannouncing the move without any concrete plans---puts the business in an uncomfortable limbo.

Auriga analyst Kevin Hunt said that HP is simply a mess. He said Walter Hewlett, who argued for a breakup of the company in a legal spat over HP's Compaq merger, may have been right. Hunt also blasted the Autonomy deal:

Autonomy has been viewed by many as a “roll-up”, and the price tag of roughly 16x forward revenue and 64x forward PE seems extreme, and probably says a lot about the growth prospects of HP’s core software businesses. While HP expects the deal to be accretive on an EPS basis, it is massively dilutive to shareholder value if the true cost of capital is considered rather than current cash rates.

Bottom line from analysts: HP shares are expected to be a classic "value trap." Just when you think the fundamentals and financials couldn't get much worse at HP---they do. As a result, cheap shares just get cheaper.

Shares were down 17 percent in premarket trading:


Around the network:

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Banking, Enterprise Software, Hardware

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  • A classic mistake

    Don't announce something then try to do it, do it then announce it. When HP announced the PC business was crap, they ensured that companies would think three times before buying any HP PCs and they guaranteed the unit would go for a firesale price. I have to wonder if Apothaker really works for Larry Ellison ....
    terry flores
    • Shot themselves in the foot, didn't they?

      I won't be buying any HP laptops or PCs in the future. Not if there's uncertanity as to whether they will be supported or not. <br><br>And I don't know the story on their printers since I was planning to buy a new one next year as well.
  • HP.bis

    This is completely in line with the business operating model of HP in recent years.

    It is completely out of line with the business operating model that brought HP to success.
  • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

    HP's changes are focused on numbers. They are following trends and finding which areas are not best for them now, but going to be the best for them in the future.

    I'm disappointed that the webOS may be dropped, as it is a better performer than most others and would likely land in 2nd or 3rd place in the market over the long term.

    For the stock, I am looking forward to buying at the lower price and holding on to it for some time to come. The company is a better bet than any airline or bank stocks these days.
    • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

      You may want to wait until the ax falls on Apothecker. You'll miss out on the uptick the day he gets fired, but so long as he is there the bigger risk is that he will do something even more stupid than announcing the sale of the PC Division before he has anyone lined up to buy it. You have to admit, that's about as dumb as it comes.

      I had assumed that the death of the TouchPad was a side effect of a long-planned decision to sell the PC business. Now it looks more like the whole "transformation" was decided over a quick lunch at McDonald's, some time in the last week. "Juggling in a wind tunnel," one guy called it. "Driving by bouncing off the guardrails" is another.

      I'll bet the phones are ringing off the hook at the board members' offices... institutional investors wanting Apothecker's head on a stick. Even if you agree with the decision to spin off the PC business, telling everybody you're going to take a year to think about it while it swirls slowly around the porcelain bowl is nuts.
      Robert Hahn
      • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

        @Robert Hahn

        Totally agree with your statement. Apothecker's in line with Balmer. Since I still own MSFT stock, I hope Balmer's ahead.
  • One Man's &quot;Bold&quot;... another man's "Moronic", "Desperate", "Bizarre", or cue to short-sell.
  • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

    what does this have to do with nuking the Touchpad?
    • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

      @ThereThere In a word, everything. The iPad has hit HP's core business with a paradigm shift in how people use computing devices. PC sales are flat or down over year mainly due to the flooding of the consumer market by Apple's iPad.
      HP's half hearted attempt at stemming that flood with a WebOS device was aimed at joining in that shift, though, frankly when an exec at HP said that the best HP could hope for was battling it out for second place I thought then there wasn't enough fire in the belly for HP to succeed in the tablet market.
      Apple has if not single handedly at least been a major factor in the disarray of both HP and the entire computer industry. I'll admit that while Apple has enjoyed considerable success it has been the stumbling and miscues of every major CEO out there that's contributed to their success. HP is no exception to that. The Touchpad, while it may have matured into a real competitor, HP didn't have the balls to attempt to compete two iterations in on the iPad. It was a non starter from the get go.
  • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

    Stocks have been hammered enough lately - buy - hmm - that "could" be a long term money maker - if HP does not sell off - that should have been kept quiet - that leak sure did not help the stock price.

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  • Shot Foot Again

    HP's been shooting itself in the foot ever since buying Compaq. Total outsource model. Compaq was making money doing maintenance on lower end products. Hp piloted outsourcing and even though the outcome was slightly in the negative, moved to outsourcing. Their mindset back then was "if it's not running HPUNIX, it isn't worth our time". Obviously they've now decided to just scuttle all the low end stuff. And the phone and pad were recent products!

    Glad I dumped my stock when it was up. I think it's going to be a long time before it comes back.

    Leadership is lacking at HP! If they wanted to lose money, they could have paid me a few million to be their CEO!!
  • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

    HP suffers from the same inbred philosophy as Microsoft and Intel. Having dominated the PC industry for decades there was no fire left to follow Apple's paradigm shift to Pad computing for consumers. Each of the PC producers suffer the same problem. They think Pads are a passing consumer phase, like the iPod. Well, like they thought the iPod was. The entire industry is over burdened with the fruits of past successes: CEOs who think eternal growth happens without effort, Boards who haven't a clue about vision, and bureaucracies laden with decades of 'process' unable to respond in a timely fashion to Apple's start up philosophy.
    HP is just the latest, but I can be confident not the last victim of Apple's success.
  • Two things:

    Fear of the iPad or other "current" tablets is just one of the reasons for pulling the plug on webOS. More significant is the 800 pound gorilla about to be unleashed to the world of tablets and PCs, that being Windows 8. HP saw the writing on the wall, and they knew that, with Microsoft entering into the tablet arena with Windows 8, that they didn't stand a chance. Enter Windows 8, and exit webOS. But, HP is trying to get something out of the division before it's too late.

    Also, HPs PC division is still worth a lot of money, and perhaps it's management were hoping that, with the announcement of that division being up for sale, that they could start a bidding war for HP's PC business.

    HP is not dead yet, not by a long shot, and if they can get good value from the sales of webOS and the PC division, then that money could be put to use in other areas that HP is hoping to be more successful in.
    • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

      I know what you mean. Once Windows 8 comes out, all will be crushed in its path. The Seven Cities will fall. The heavens themselves will crack. Mountains will be reduced to rubble; entire oceans will disappear. The fabric of spacetime will be twisted into pretzels and fabulous creatures will disappear from the Pleistocene and pop out on the streets of Philadelphia. The Ballmer will survey his domain, and hear the lamentations of the women.
      Robert Hahn
      • Not quite, but close.

        Being dismissive is not how one goes about dealing with the real world. Denial is not going to earn you a place on the decision-making process which makes the world richer.

        Windows 8 hasn't been released yet, but to deny that it's going to have a huge impact on the world of IT, is the same as the statement a few decades ago that, most people wouldn't have a need for more than 600k of storage.

        Hold on to your thoughts and meet me again in another discussion in the future, in perhaps 18 to 24 months, after Windows 8 has been released and used. I'll bet you won't be as sarcastic as you sound now.
      • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

        <ul><i>Windows 8 hasn't been released yet, but to deny that it's going to have a huge impact on the world of IT, is the same as the statement a few decades ago that, most people wouldn't have a need for more than 600k of storage. </i></ul><p>
        I think it's more like the statement one decade ago that corporations are finally getting off NT4 and moving to Windows XP. The history of these things is that "the world of IT" goes along with spending millions on upgrades about half as often as Microsoft wishes. Vista fell in that crack, and so will Windows 8. The corporations are just now moving to 7. They aren't going to do it again until Windows 9... ten years from now.
        Robert Hahn
      • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

        @Robert Hahn I feel that so many people simply are not treating Ballmer of Microsoft fairly. By any count, Ballmer has real vision and better sense to the core businesses of Microsoft. In contrast, Leo of HP simply does not have a a clue!
      • Robert Hahn: Corporations won't be moving to Windows 7

        if they haven't already done so.

        With Windows 8 on the horizon, it wouldn't make any sense for them to go with Windows 7 when Windows 8 sound much more promising for all the different computing platforms and for connecting all of them with with same OS.

        So, in essence, Windows 8 will get the customers that hold off on going with Windows 7, and the new OS will also get the upgrades and new customers who automatically get the OS with new PCs. So, there is no doubt that Windows 8 will be the most successful OS of all time. And, it's going to also take a huge portion of the tablets market. No doubt, Windows 8 will be an overwhelming success. And that could get even bigger if Windows 8 can be successfully installed onto smartphones.
  • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

    I don't think HP has any more feet left to shoot. Don't you wish there were audio/video recordings of when decisions like these are reached and what exactly were the discussions and reasoning, if any, behind them? Gawd....
    • RE: Analysts crush HP's revamp: 'Juggling in a wind tunnel'

      Absolutely. One of two things is true: either Apothecker knew that HP was about to exit the PC business when he said all those things about the WebOS being the future, and how it would be put on all of HP's PC products... or he didn't know, which means that the decision was made very recently, on the basis of little discussion.

      In the first case, Apothecker can't be trusted as far as you can throw him, and in the second case they have made a hugely monumental decision to shed 35% of the revenue of the company (and probably thousands of employees) without doing any serious analysis.

      I'm not sure which is worse.
      Robert Hahn