HP Best Way To Play Coming PC Sales Outperformance, Citi Says

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Sales of PCs will be at least flat next year, before growing slightly in 2016 and 2017, Citigroup wrote in a note to investors today. The firm identified HP (HPQ) as the best way to play better than expected PC sales.

WHAT'S NEW: Although many believe that PCs will become extinct, there are several reasons why sales of personal computers will begin growing again, Citi analyst Jim Suva contended. Sales of commercial PCs in emerging markets should increase over the long-term, as those PCs are aging, according to Suva. He estimated that commercial PCs in emerging markets account for 27% of the total PC market. Meanwhile, tablets were supposed to replace PCs, but tablet sales growth slowed to just 8% this year, indicating that tablets are becoming less of a threat to PCs, he wrote. Additionally, some believe that PC demand was inflated by a rush to replace computers running Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows XP operating system this year after the company stopped supporting XP, but Suva believe that PC demand growth in 2014 was more driven by a need to buy new computers following a lull in growth in 2012-2013 than by the XP situation. As a result, the analyst estimates that the XP phenomenon will only reduce next year's PC growth by 1%, versus the 3%+ reduction that investors fear. HP is the best way to play the PC rebound, wrote Suva, who raised his price target on the company's shares to $46 from $40 and kept a Buy rating on the stock.

WHAT'S NOTABLE: Suva raised his price target on hard disk drive maker Western Digital (WDC) to $125 from $110 and on its competitor, Seagate (STX) , to $74 from $70, as he noted that the companies obtain about 50% of their revenue from PCs. He kept Buy ratings on both names.

PRICE ACTION: In early trading, Hewlett-Packard gained 2.7% to $38.32, Western Digital rose 1.7% to $106.30, and Seagate climbed 1% to $63.89.

Reporting by Larry Ramer.

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