Going into HP Inc. (HPQ - Get Report) and Lenovo's (LNVGY) latest earnings reports, it was generally well-understood that PC sales look much healthier today than they did six to nine months ago. And that the industry's top players continue to take share from rivals with less scale and smaller R&D and marketing budgets.
All the same, the healthy PC sales figures posted by HP and Lenovo provided additional reasons for Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) , Intel (INTC - Get Report) , Nvidia (NVDA - Get Report) , Western Digital (WDC - Get Report) and others depending heavily on the industry to be encouraged.
Not only did HP/Lenovo's unit shipments continue ticking higher, the impact of a strong high-end PC market on their top lines grew markedly relative to their preceding quarters.
With both PC and printing revenue coming in better than expected, HP reported fiscal second quarter revenue of $12.39 billion (up 7% annually) and adjusted EPS of 40 cents (down 2%), beating consensus analyst estimates of $11.94 billion and 39 cents. It also guided for July quarter EPS of 40 cents to 43 cents and fiscal 2017 (ends in October) EPS of $1.59 to $1.66. Those ranges are in-line with pre-earnings consensus estimates of 42 cents and $1.66.
Lenovo reported March quarter (fiscal fourth quarter) revenue of $9.58 billion (up 5%, a big improvement from the December quarter's 6% decline) and net income of $107 million (down 41% due to gross margin pressures). The former slightly missed a $9.61 billion consensus, but the latter beat a $90 million consensus.
HP shares are currently down 2.4% and with the stock having risen 28% in 2017 going into earnings, there could be some disappointment over the company's cautious earnings outlook, which has much to do with a subdued printing supplies forecast and soaring DRAM and flash memory prices. Lenovo shares rose 3.7% overnight in Hong Kong. DRAM/NAND flash maker Micron (MU - Get Report) is up 1.7%, possibly getting a boost from HP's forecast that its component costs will continue rising in the July quarter, albeit at a slower pace.
HP's Personal Systems unit, whose sales are dominated by PCs, saw revenue rise 10% to $7.67 billion, a growth rate matching the January quarter's. Business sales rose 7%, and consumer sales rose an eye-popping 16%.
The segment's operating income, hurt by high memory prices, rose just 1% to $244 million. And as was the case for HP's cash-cow Printing unit, which saw revenue rise 2% a year after it fell 16% amid inventory draw-downs, favorable comps once more lifted Personal Systems' growth rates: The division's sales were down 10% in the year-ago period. Comps will steadily get tougher as 2017 progresses.
Still, it's impressive that Personal Systems delivered 10% sales growth when unit shipments rose a relatively modest 5%. The January quarter's 10% growth was on the back on an 8% unit increase. On its earnings call, HP noted PC average selling prices (ASPs) were lifted by favorable pricing trends -- price hikes were enacted due to rising memory prices and forex pressures -- and a mix shift towards premium systems, such as gaming PCs and the high-end notebooks (some of which can double as tablets by being folded) in HP's Spectre, Envy and EliteBook lines. A mix shift towards notebooks (units up 12%) relative to desktops (units down 6%) may have also played a role.
The story was the same for Lenovo: Though its unit shipments only rose 1% to 14.4 million, the company's PC and Smart Devices (PCSD) division's revenue rose 4.9% to $6.7 billion, after having grown 2% in the December quarter.
A 20.5% increase in shipments of gaming PCs -- they carry above-average ASPs -- helped Lenovo, as did strong demand for business PCs and PC/tablet hybrids with detachable keyboards. The ASP growth came in spite of the fact that shipments of Chromebooks, which often feature sub-$300 prices, rose 38.2% (Alphabet/Google (GOOGL - Get Report) must be pleased).
Each company's pricing strength fits with what other industry names have been reporting. Intel's PC CPU division saw a 7% Q1 increase in platform ASPs, which offset a 4% drop in platform volumes. Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) March quarter Mac revenue growth (14%) easily outpaced its Mac unit growth (4%), due to strong demand for the Touch Bar-sporting MacBook Pros it launched last fall. And thanks in large part to booming sales for powerful Pascal-architecture GPUs going into high-end gaming PCs, Nvidia's gaming product revenue rose 49% in the April quarter, in spite of reports of a desktop graphics card inventory correction.
HP and to a lesser extent Lenovo's unit growth nonetheless points to further share gains, given that IDC estimated global Q1 PC shipments rose 0.6% and Gartner estimated that they fell 2.4%. In April, IDC assigned HP a 21.8% Q1 PC shipment share, up from 19.4% a year earlier. Lenovo was assigned a 20.4% share, up slightly from 20.2%.
Overall, PCs still aren't anyone's idea of a growth market: On its call, HP said it doesn't "broadly disagree" with analyst estimates for PC shipments to be down 2% to up 2% during the rest of 2017. But that's still a much rosier outlook than what was typically offered during much of 2016. And just as importantly, industry trends now strongly point to revenue growth -- both for PC OEMs and many of the companies supplying them -- outpacing shipment growth.
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