H-P, Dell Lose Big Investors' Support

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Wall Street analysts are bullish on computer bellwethers Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Dell (DELL), but many of their biggest investors have been paring their stakes.

H-P, the world's largest maker of personal computers, saw 14 sellers and only six buyers among its 20 largest investors in the third quarter. Axa and Fidelity, among its top five investors, dumped a combined 26.4 million shares, according to Bloomberg data. In total, there was a net decline of 29.9 million shares of H-P owned by institutional and mutual fund investors in the third quarter.

Although Dell had 12 buyers among its top 20 institutional and mutual fund investors in the third quarter, there was widespread dissatisfaction. There was a net decline of 65.5 million shares, even as Axa purchased 21.7 million shares.

H-P and Dell are badly trailing their peers and the broader stock market. Hewlett-Packard has fallen 16% this year, and Dell has dropped 3%. The Standard & Poor's Computer Hardware Index has increased 12% and the benchmark S&P 500 Index is up 7.9%.

Dell and H-P compete across several product lines, including laptops, personal computers and storage technology, and both have had a volatile few months that have clouded the business outlook. Dell lost a bidding war with H-P for data-storage company 3Par, while H-P replaced its popular chief executive, Mark Hurd, with SAP's ( SAP) Leo Apotheker in a tumultuous transition that hurt the company's image.

And Dell said two weeks ago that Ron Garriques, the president of the group responsible for its first forays into smart phones and tablets, is leaving the company. The week before that, it completed the acquisition of Perot Systems Corp.

Still, both firms reported strong quarterly results this month and got broad backing from Wall Street analysts.

H-P and Dell exceeded analysts' expectations, propelling their shares as their peers suffered in a technology pullback.

Of the 39 Wall Street analysts that follow H-P, 19 have it rated "buy," 17 "hold" and three "sell," according to Bloomberg. Among the positive factors supporting the buy ratings are H-P's low price-to-trailing-earnings ratio (P/E) of 11.8 versus the average of 35 for its industry group and the 20.8 P/E of the S&P 500. It also has strong cash flow, as indicated by a price-to-cash-flow ratio of 23.5 versus the average of 102.5 for its industry peers.


Among the 38 analysts that follow Dell, 28 have a "buy" rating, nine a "hold" and one a "sell." The company has a P/E of 17.6, half that of its industry group, and its price-to-cash-flow ratio is even less than H-P's.

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