2 HPs not necessarily better than 1

The company will struggle no matter how it's configured.

By Jonathan Berr Oct 8, 2012 5:38PM
Dollar sign on keyboard - CorbisHewlett-Packard (HPQ) is such a basket case that it should be split in two to finally unlock its hidden value. At least that's the view of UBS analyst Steve Milunovich, who is so confident about this conclusion that he has even argued it to be inevitable. 

Moreover, the analyst argued, company founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard would want to split the enterprise from the PC and printer businesses. I'm not so sure.

For one thing, splitting a weak company would not necessarily create two stronger ones, especially in HP's case. The timing also is not great given the economic uncertainties, which will force tech companies to slash prices on hardware and offer deals on services to win business from cash-strapped enterprises. Consumers are reluctant to go into debt to buy new hardware that does not have the Apple (AAPL) brand.

HP businesses has lackluster growth potential on the both enterprise and consumer sides.

Take servers. Recent data from Gartner shows that factory revenue for these computer workhorses is on the decline. Though HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is slightly leading IBM (IBM), growing that business will be difficult. Many high-tech firms such as Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB) have found it more cost effective to build their own servers. Companies are also not enthusiastic about hiring outsiders to assist them with IT projects.

Spending on IT services are expected to rise 2.3% this year, down from growth of 7.7% in 2011, according to Gartner. Even IBM (IBM), which says it is the largest provider of IT services, is struggling. Big Blue's services backlog as of June 30 was $136 billion, down 6% year over year. Unless the economy picks up speed, it's hard to see this sector improving significantly. HP will need to fight IBM and Dell (DELL) for business.

The picture is similar in the PC market. According to Gartner, HP led in PC shipments in the second quarter, accounting for 14.9% of the market -- a decline of 12.1%. "HP’s PC business has not been back to pre re-structuring level yet," the market researcher said. "The company also faced aggressive pricing from Lenovo in the professional market, and threats from companies such as ASUS and Samsung in the already crowded consumer markets."

The future for HP is bleak as it is currently stands and not much better if it ever split. No wonder CEO Meg Whitman isn't keen on the idea.

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed companies. Follow him on Twitter@jdberr.

More from Top Stocks


Oct 8, 2012 8:22PM

TBTS - Too Big to Succeed.  First idea was correct, sell the HP PC brand to somebody?


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