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TheStreet Open House

Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman's Reality Distortion Field

Stocks in this article: HPQCOSTCRMSSYSDDD

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Whenever I think about Hewlett-Packard  (HPQ)HPQ CEO Meg Whitman, I start humming the theme song from the The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

"Who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile."

Wall Street loves Whitman. That love is best expressed in this headline from our own James Rogers: "HP Soars as Sales Surprise." 

Then come the details. Sales of $29.1 billion, down from $30 billion a year ago. Earnings per share were $1.01, down from $1.16 per share a year ago.

Is this winning? Or is this "winning" the way Charlie Sheen might define it? Are these numbers you use as an HP bull to make yourself feel better, or is this real?

At its opening price today of $27.45 per share, HP was worth $52.65 billion. This is almost 90% more than the company was worth at the start of the year. But HP had sales this year of $120 billion, which means the company is still selling for less than half its annual sales.

If this were Costco  (COST)COST I'd say this was pretty good. That company had sales of $105 billion in the last fiscal year and its market cap is $51 billion. But Costco is a retailer.

In the technology business, Hewlett-Packard has an insane discount. By way of contrast, Apple  (AAPL)AAPL, at $499 billion in market cap, sells for nearly three times its trailing year sales of $171 billion. Cisco  (CSCO)CSCO, worth almost $112 billion, had sales for its last fiscal year of $48.6 billion, a better than 2-to-1 ratio.

You can look at this in one of two ways. Either HP is still distressed, or HP is a screaming buy.

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