|HP, led by CEO Leo Apotheker, will report its first-quarter results after market close on Tuesday.|
PALO ALTO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Investors will be looking to see whether HP ( HPQ) continues the recent run of strong tech sector results when it posts its first-quarter results after market close on Tuesday. Also of interest: CEO Léo Apotheker's long-term plans for the company. HP is coming off a strong fourth quarter and should report positive news of tapping into continued strength in enterprise IT spending. Rival Dell ( DELL) blew past Wall Street's estimates in its fourth-quarter numbers last week, and earlier this quarter, IBM ( IBM) noted strong demand for both hardware and software.
"The corporate refresh cycle is still going strong and we expect HP to benefit from strength in the enterprise as well as commercial refresh cycles," said Wedbush Morgan analyst Kaushik Roy in a recent note. Roy raised his price target from $50 to $55. "We expect HP to continue to outperform in the next few quarters." Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are looking for HP to report revenue of $32.95 billion and earnings of $1.29 a share, compared to $31.2 billion and $1.07 a share in the same period last year. HP's stock sat in the doldrums for much of 2010 following the shocking departure of CEO Mark Hurd. This year, however, the company's shares have rallied somewhat, gaining more than 14%. Gleacher & Company analyst Brian Marshall said that HP's first-quarter results should be another positive catalyst for the stock. In a recent note, the analyst also reiterated his buy rating and $54 HP price target. HP CEO Apotheker will once again be the center of attention during the conference call to discuss the results after market close. The German-born executive was a surprise replacement for Mark Hurd late last year and has kept a low profile, focusing his attention on the internal workings of the No. 1 PC maker. The onetime SAP ( SAP) chief is starting to reshape HP and has mentioned that he has big plans for the Silicon Valley heavyweight. Last week, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Apotheker explained that he wants HP to be more customer-oriented and promised a major focus on cloud computing and connectivity technologies.
Earlier this month HP revamped its mobile device strategy, unveiling the eagerly-awaited TouchPad tablet, which runs WebOS software from the company's $1.2 billion Palm acquisition. The tech giant also unveiled two WebOS smartphones, the Pre3 and the Veer. On the enterprise side, HP recently strengthened its relationship with Microsoft ( MSFT) in a bid to ease customers' deployments of cloud computing and business applications. HP will flesh out its broader product roadmap at a major event in San Francisco on March 14. "We expect CEO Leo Apotheker's meeting with investors to allay some investor concerns about his strategy and be a positive catalyst for the stock," wrote Wedbush analyst Kaushik Roy. "Meeting Leo in person should help investors become more familiar with him and thus improve investors' comfort level with him." Software is likely to figure prominently in this effort. Apotheker has already identified software as key to HP's future. Software sales accounted for just $974 million of the company's total fourth-quarter revenue of $33.3 billion. HP shares dipped 68 cents to $47.99 shortly after noon on Tuesday, as the Nasdaq fell 1.74%. --Written by James Rogers in New York. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/jamesjrogers. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org