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is set to hold its analyst day this coming Tuesday, and if the company hasn't named a new CEO by then or even as part of the festivities, it's sure to face plenty of questions about where it's leaning.

The stock is coming off a strong week where it gained almost 5%, including a 2.1% rise to $40.98 on Friday. It was the second positive week in a row for the shares which sold off in the wake of Mark Hurd's departure on August 6, setting a new 52-week low of $37.32 on August 27, a swing of 32% from its April 16 high for the year of $54.75. Prior to Hurd's surprise resignation, the stock was sitting comfortably above $46.

Wall Street was split on how imminent an announcement on a new CEO might be ahead of the meeting. Collins Stewart, which has a buy rating on the stock with a $55 price target, issued a note on Thursday saying it believes the company is close to announcing Hurd's successor, most likely an internal candidate.

It doesn't expect this will spark the stock to previous heights however, and didn't venture a guess as to who might get the job beyond identifying three likely candidates -- Anne Livermore, executive vice president, Enterprise Business; Todd Bradley, executive vice president, Personal Systems Group, and also the former CEO of Palm; and Dave Donatelli, executive vice president, Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking -- and listing some positives and negatives for each.

Collins Stewart sees VJ Joshi, HP's executive vice president, Imaging and Printing Group, as a less likely candidate than the others, saying the printing business hasn't grown enough to justify a larger role for him.

"While the fact of resolving the CEO question will probably give rise to a modest relief rally, it is unlikely to generate the enthusiasm of five years ago when Hurd was named CEO," the firm told clients, saying the announcement could come in the "very near term."

ISI Group, however, offered a preview of the meeting earlier in the week, and it doesn't expect HP will reveal its next leader.

"We expect the company to offer its preliminary FY11 outlook in addition to providing an overview of each of its businesses," the firm said. "We would not be surprised if the company does not have an update on its CEO search by the analyst day."

Also bullish on the stock with a buy rating and a $60 price target, ISI Group noted that HP has outperformed the outlook it gave at the analyst meeting it held this time last year, and said it believes the company could give an EPS guidance that will be higher than the current consensus, although the top line will be tougher.

"Our expectations for revenue guidance is in the $129.0-$131.5b (up 3-5% y/y) range which compares with current consensus of $131.5b. On the EPS front, we estimate the forecast to be in the $5.00-$5.10 (up 11-14% y/y) range versus consensus of $4.99," ISI Group told clients.

HP's fiscal year ends in October, so it's currently in its fourth quarter. Wall Street is looking for a profit of $1.26 a share on revenue of $32.7 billion in the three-month period.

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Whether or not a CEO is named next week, buy-and-hold investors are likely restless as the stock is still off about 22% year-to-date, so they may be heartened by ISI Group's belief that the event could give the shares a boost.


We believe the analyst day could act as a near term catalyst as management is likely to point to the strength in enterprise PCs and the fact that corporate PC shipments will drive the segment's growth over the next 1-2 years," the firm said. "Our checks continue to indicate that HP is performing very well in enterprise PC replacements where it is able to gain some share in addition to protecting its large installed base."


Written by Michael Baron in New York.

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