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HP's Still a Value Trap

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There is no shortage of experts when it comes to highlighting the problems facing Hewlett-Packard (HPQ - Get Report). As beaten up as the company looks, it's hard for me to ignore how attractive the stock still appears.

My problem is I have absolutely no faith whatsoever that this current management team can harvest HP's underlying value.

HP investors will likely disagree. As has been the case for most of the year, I expect they'll be very determined to share those opinions.

Here's the thing: There are two schools of thought when assessing what HP has been able to accomplish. It's foolish to give too much weight to what the stock has done this year without expanding the full view of where it's come from.

I won't deny the fact that the 58% surge we've seen this year in shares of HP has been impressive. But I disagree with the idea that somehow this affirms Meg Whitman's candidacy for CEO of the Year.

What I mean by this is, over the trailing 16 months, at best, the stock has traded flat. While the stock has, in fact, rebounded nicely from last November's low of $11.35, the third quarter's 8% year-over-year decline in revenue suggests HP's recovery potential is still as rocky as it ever was. In fact, I believe the company has taken a slight step backward.
[Read: <a target="blank" data-add-tracking="true" href=""><em>Apple's Collapse: A Scholarly Perspective</em></a>]

Given HP's dire circumstances and what has been a perpetual restructuring operation, not much was expected going into the third quarter. But the company was also coming off two previous earnings reports where HP not only beat expectations but raised guidance. Essentially, by virtue of some "small victories," the company had, in effect, raised its own bar. So I won't apologize for having expected better results than those that came in merely in line with estimates.

To that end, given the year-to-date strong surge of the stock, I have to say the performance of every business segment, in my opinion, was a disappointment. This includes the 11% decline in PC revenue, which was not a surprise. But the 4% and 9% declines in printing and services, respectively, were much worse than I projected.
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