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PALO ALTO, Calif. (


) -- Hot on the heels of

disappointing results



(DELL) - Get Dell Technologies Inc Class C Report


weak guidance



(CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems, Inc. Report



(HPQ) - Get HP Inc. Report

reports its second-quarter results at a tough time for some of tech's biggest titans.

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Like Cisco, Dell, which reported its results late on Tuesday, noted a challenging macro-economic environment, particularly in Europe and the public sector. Both these trends could weigh heavily on HP when it reports its numbers after market close on Wednesday.

HP reports its second-quarter results after market close on Wednesday.

Europe, the Middle East and Africa accounted for just over a third of HP's total revenue during its

first quarter

, and analysts warn that the company's business on the other side of the Atlantic will again prove key.

"High Europe exposure remains a big risk for HP," noted Brian White, an analyst at Topeka Capital Markets, in a note released earlier this week. "Rising macro risks are a wild card -- HP has the highest exposure to Europe (EMEA was 39% of first-quarter sales) in our coverage."

Analysts surveyed by

Thomson Reuters

expect HP to report revenue of $29.92 billion and earnings of 91 cents a share, compared to sales of $31.6 billion and earnings of $1.24 in the same period last year.

HP's huge PC business will undoubtedly be in the spotlight after market close. Rival Dell cited a tough PC spending environment in its first-quarter results, with the company's notebook business contracting 10% in the face of fierce tablet competition.

Topeka's White, however, thinks that HP's PC sales have upside potential in the second quarter. "We believe HP could deliver upside to our PC sales forecast that calls for notebook computing sales to fall by 7% quarter-over-quarter and desktop PC revenue to drop by 6%," he noted.

White has a 'hold' rating and $22 price target on HP.


will be live-blogging HP's second-quarter results, starting at 3.45 PM ET:

Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee, believes that HP's PC performance could even fuel decent second-quarter earnings. "We anticipate light revenue but a meet or beat on EPS due to stabilizing PC market conditions," he explained, in a note. "What we are picking up are mixed trends where its PC business (30% of revenue) appears to be recovering, but offset by sluggishness in services (29%), printers (21%), and servers (17%)."

Wu rates HP 'buy' with a price target of $31.

Investors will also be closely monitoring HP's results to see whether recent rumors of up to 30,000 layoffs materialize. HP declined to comment on the rumor in an email to



"While a difficult decision, in our view, a reduction in force will improve confidence in HP's guidance for 'at least $4 earnings per share in fiscal year 2012' and enable investments in strategic, higher-growth areas," explained Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group, in a note. Key growth areas include cloud computing, big data, software and the Hadoop open source data analysis technology, he added.

Software, in particular, is high on HP's agenda as the Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm looks to sell customers new


of hardware, software and services.

Critics have derided HP's


software portfolio, although the no.1 PC maker has made a number of acquisitions to improve its software story, such as the surprise

$10.3 billion purchase

of U.K. firm



HP CEO Meg Whitman, who took over from the ousted Leo Apotheker last year, has outlined a

bold goal

for the company's software business. Late last year Whitman told the German newspaper

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

that she wants to double or triple the company's software sales.

HP's software revenue climbed 30% year-over-year during the company's recent fiscal first quarter, but, at $946 million, accounted for just over 3% of the firm's overall revenue. Total software revenue during the company's fiscal 2011 was $3.22 billion, or 2.5% of total sales.

Shares of HP, which is in the throes of a

major restructuring

, were down 4.68% at $20.76 on Wednesday.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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