NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- HP's (HPQ) fourth-quarter earnings topped Wall Street consensus, but the company's issues go much further than one quarter -- it looks as if HP's assets are in a structural decline.
HP's biggest revenue generator, its Personal Systems Group, saw revenue fall 14% from last year. Printing sales fell 5%, services fell 6%, and Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking was down 9%. These results make it abundantly clear that HP is nowhere near close to finishing its turnaround, and there may be considerable downside left to go.
HP took an $8.8 billion write-down on software maker Autonomy, which it purchased under former CEO Leo Apotheker. HP only bought Autonomy for $10.3 billion, so writing the value of the asset down by about 85% a little more than a year later suggests HP has incredible challenges ahead as it tries to turn itself around.
Under Apotheker, HP thought it would be a software company, transitioning itself similar to what IBM (IBM) has become. Since Meg Whitman took the CEO job in late 2011, she has distanced herself from this route, trying to turn HP around and focus on what made HP one of the top PC makers in the world. But Whitman's route seems too late though.HP is in an unenviable position, similar to Dell (DELL), in that the PC market is slowing as consumers and enterprises rely more on smartphones and tablets for their computing needs. HP doesn't have a phone or a tablet, though Whitman said earlier this year the company has to offer a smartphone. Apple (AAPL), Samsung, Google (GOOG) and others are dominating the mobile market right now, and rapidly putting the hurt on HP. Since the start of the year, HP shares have lost 48.37%, compared to a 39.7% gain for Apple and a 3.45% rise for Google. Dell has fared almost as bad as HP, falling 37.6%, but Dell has one thing going for it that HP does not. Dell had $14.2 billion in cash at the end of the third quarter with no debt. HP has $11.8 billion in cash, but had $21.8 billion in long-term debt at the end of its fiscal fourth quarter.
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