Apotheker's first investor call: a solid and humble performance

Leo Apotheker makes his first analyst call as H-P CEO. It was a solid performance with none of the dramatics we have come to know.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

Leo Apotheker, newly minted H-P CEO and the surprise choice of many was on good form at today's investor call. Prior to his prepared remarks and Q&A, the board repeatedly mentioned that Apotheker was the only person offered the job. That was clearly meant to emphasize his credentials as an international and high quality candidate. Nevertheless, the Q&A proceeded much as one would expect with questions about short term intentions, his vision, what he plans to do about the board and employees.

Sam Diaz talks to some of the salient talking points: HP's Apotheker: A 'global citizen' positioned to lead a global company

Now you're not going to get Apotheker giving too much away but he did provide some interesting insights: "I believe HP is worth more than the sum of its parts" and then went on to talk briefly about software and "higher value added services, an increasingly important element and component in this strategy. You should see us working on all of these elements." What was interesting at this point was that while he mentioned PCs and servers alongside software, he omitted to mention printers and ink.

Apotheker was not the slightest fazed by a question about his approach to retaining the management team: "Sure I'd be happy to. I believe the management team are the best and the brightest in the industry and I am very privileged to be joining them. The first thing I did...was to reach out to each member of the executive team, we talked, they are great professionals, they have HP in their blood. I am sure we will be working together for many years to come." Plenty has been said about how the H-P board made a hash of Mark Hurd's departure but it was perhaps surprising to hear Apotheker talk in such generous terms.

He then went on to say that in the coming weeks and months he plans to learn from management and employees as well as customers. My sense is that despite the perceived turmoil inside H-P, Apotheker is not prepared to be steamrollered into making any hasty decisions. Instead, my read is that he is setting a calm tone in an effort to provide at least the gloss of assurance that there won't be a massive and debilitating re-organization in the short term. Goodness knows H-P has endured enough of that under past management and so a period of calm will be good for the company.

He was asked the inevitable question about Oracle to which Apotheker did the one thing that will surprise most. Instead of coming out swinging with a well chosen epithet, he commended Oracle on its strategy.  He re-emphasized his view that H-P has 'under valued assets' and that the company is more than the sum of its parts. So - what can we say?

On an initial hearing Apotheker showed the kind of character to which I alluded earlier. He was quiet, measured yet mostly confident in his answers. That suggests a person who has quickly assimilated what he needs to know in order to get off and running. The devil will be in the detail as he tours the world. Apotheker paid tribute to Ray Lane, who he says he's worked with "For the last 20 years." But mostly, I did not hear the upbeat tone which characterized his previous analyst calls. Instead I heard the humble man who is beginning a tough journey.

As China Martens of 451 Group Tweeted in response to Hasso Plattner's words of congratulation:

RT @M_Myers RT @saptv Hasso Plattner congratulates Léo Apotheker named CEO of HP <Translation: Rather you than me!

Overall?  A solid, steady performance with no dramatics to set the investor heartbeats racing. Whether he is able to retain that calmness remains to be seen.

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