Fresh after a spin-off of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Inc.'s (HPE) software business on Friday, Meg Whitman provides an update on what remains of the IT tech firm after the market close on Tuesday. Investors will listen for details on competitive markets for servers and storage -- and perhaps even Whitman's future after she was reportedly a candidate for the top job at Uber Technologies Inc.
As Whitman has broken up HPE, activist investors such as Greenlight Capital Inc., Starboard Value LP, Jana Partners LLC and Third Point LLC have circled the company.
Wall Street expects HPE to post third-quarter earnings of 26 cents per share on a non-Gaap basis according to analysts surveyed by FactSet, with revenues $7.5 billion.
HPE shares were down 2.4% to $13.96 on Tuesday afternoon, and are up a scant 3% this year.
Diverging trends in servers and storage may offset each other, Barclays Capital analyst Mark Moskowitz suggested in an earnings preview. The analyst raised his target from $17 to $18 per share in late August but maintained an underweight rating on the stock because of questions about sustained revenue and earnings improvements.
Whitman has turned aggressive on server pricing, Moskowitz noted, and could report increased sales to corporations and large enterprises, which have higher margins than HPE's sales to cloud, big data and other hyperscale customers. "[E]ven with more aggressive pricing, the margin impact can be positive," he wrote.
Increasing competition in storage could hurt results, though. "NetApp (NTAP) and Pure Storage (PSTG) seem to be on the winning side for now, implying HPE's storage revenue trends could partially counter any near-term goodness in servers," Moskowitz added.
For a while this summer, it appeared that Whitman might not even be around to lead Tuesday's call. The HPE boss was rumored to be a lead candidate to replace former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
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Whitman shut down the speculation on Twitter (TWTR) well before Uber chose Expedia Inc. (EXPE) boss Dara Khosrowshahi as its new leader, although she was reported to have been one of the final candidates and to have discussed the position with Uber's board even after her tweet.
(3/3) We have a lot of work still to do at HPE and I am not going anywhere. Uber's CEO will not be Meg Whitman.— Meg Whitman (@MegWhitman) July 28, 2017
Staring with the split from consumer-oriented HP Inc. (HPQ) in late 2015, Whitman has been radically streamlining the company's business. HPE split off its enterprise services business and merged it with Computer Sciences Corp. to create DXC Technology Co. (DXC) in an $8.5 billion that closed in April, and just Friday closed the $8.8 billion merger of its software business with Micro Focus International plc (MFGP) .
A wolf pack of activists will be dialing in to hear Whitman's future plans for HPE. Billionaire David Einhorn's Greenlight Capital took a 0.3% position in the stock during the second quarter. Jeff Smith's Starboard Value and Barry Rosenstein's Jana Partners boosted their positions to 0.6% each, while Dan Loeb's Third Point maintained its 0.4% stake in the stock.
Whitman has taken the kind of steps that an activist would favor -- such as breaking off disparate units. Revving up growth at the remaining business will be a challenge, however. "There is not much in the HPE portfolio that can provide a path to above-peer revenue and earnings growth over a sustained period, in our view," Barclays analyst Moskowitz wrote.