Chris Lau, Kapitall: Computer makers benefit whenever Intel (INTC) refreshes its lineup of processors. Even though IDC reported a 13.9% decline in PC shipments in the first quarter, the hardware refresh brings renewed interest in companies like Hewlett Packard (HPQ). There are signs that HP could return to higher margins in PCs. Meg Whitman said during its earnings call that the company would not be following Dell into a price war. Whitman said “you have to balance this [market share] with profitability and it’s a balance we focus on every day and every week.” [Read more from Chris Lau: What the Last Symbian Means for Nokia] Tablet Sales HP re-entered the tablet market by offering Android-based devices. After launching the Chromebook in February, 2013, the company released the Slate tablet. The 7-inch device is powered by an ARM (ARMH) processor and sells for $169. Sales from tablets have an even worse margin than that of PC sales, but HP may pitch a broad array of products it has to offer to its customers. Hybrid Mobile Devices The HP Slate Book X2 release suggests the PC giant will focus back on premium devices. The X2 is an Android hybrid device powered by an NVIDIA (NVDA) Tegra 4 processor. Better Margins in Quarter HP reported solid margins in printing (15.8%), enterprise services (2.6%), software as a service (19.1%), and even personal systems (3.2%). Overall non-GAAP gross margins were 23.7%. The results were helped mostly from printing, but hurt by an unfavorable mix and higher prices for consumer hardware. Non-GAAP operating margin was 8.6%. HP earned $2.4 billion in operating profit. The company continues to focus on cost cutting and efficiency, so investors should expect margins to improve in all segments of HP’s business.
ValuationIntel and HP are both undervalued, especially when they are compared to ARM Holdings. HP has a forward P/E of 7, while Intel’s forward P/E is 13. By comparison, ARM trades at a lofty forward P/E of 46. Conclusion The recovery in HP is on track. Operational cost cuts will continue, but investor interest in HP will grow as the company realigns its focus on higher margin products. Haswell, the processor name for Intel’s new line of chips, will help boost PC sales. Windows 8.1, which will bring back a variant of the Start paradigm, will also raise interests in PCs.
Written by Chris Lau, Kapitall Contributor