PALO ALTO, Calif. (
) -- This time last year investors were scratching their heads about
, wondering what to make of new CEO
to revitalize the company.
Fast forward a year and everything has changed in Palo Alto. HP
the unpopular Apotheker in September, replacing him with Meg Whitman. With the PC giant's stock plunging almost 40% over the last year, though, Whitman has spent the last few months trying to convince investors that she can get HP back on track.
HP CEO Meg Whitman
Investors, however, shouldn't hide from HP, which reports its fiscal first-quarter results after market close on Wednesday, even after recent
from PC rival
. Under Whitman, HP is at least heading in the right direction, say analysts.
"We believe HPQ is an underappreciated turnaround story," explained Shaw Wu, an analyst at Sterne Agee, in a recent note. "What we are picking up are mixed trends where the company is regaining credibility with customers and fixing inventory issues in its PC (31% of revenue) and printer (20%) businesses."
Wu also said that relative strength in enterprise and Small to Medium-Sized Business, which accounts for between 65% and 70% of the company's overall revenue, should offset weakness in consumer sales. HP's consumer business makes up around a quarter of the company's overall sales, according to Sterne Agee.
Wu rates HP a buy with a price target of $34.
HP shares were down 39 cents, or 1.33%, $28.96 on Wednesday.
Whitman has already won
for her composed performance since taking the helm of the troubled tech giant, quickly
Apotheker's contentious plan for a possible PC spinoff.
The new CEO has been praised for other strategic moves, such as HP's decision to
low-power chips. Whitman also opted to open source the acclaimed
operating system, seen as a shrewd bid to resurrect webOS technology.
More recently, HP unveiled its new ProLiant Generation 8 servers, which it's touting as the industry's most "self-sufficient", or highly automated, servers.
live blog of HP's results, starting at 3:45 p.m. ET:
Analysts surveyed by
expect HP to report revenue of $30.67 billion, and earnings of 87 cents a share after market close, down from revenue of $32.3 billion and earnings of $1.36 per share in the same period last year.
HP endured a tumultuous 2011, marred by massive uncertainty, major
and controversial strategic moves such as ditching webOS hardware.
Brian Marshall, an analyst at ISI Group, is bullish ahead of the report.
"We continue to like HP into this Wednesday's print and believe results from PSG
Personal Systems Group and Software could surprise positively," he explained, in a recent note. "While CEO Whitman has not yet officially outlined her strategy to rejuvenate HP, we believe she has taken many positive steps (e.g., more collaborative company culture, increased focus on long-term R&D, demonstrated solid command of diverse businesses, etc.) in her initial months and has set conservative expectations for investors."
Marshall reiterated a buy rating on HP with a $34 price target.
Back in late November, HP, which competes with
in its fourth-quarter results, and gave muted guidance for fiscal 2012. Wisely, Whitman struck a measured tone during her first conference call. HP, she explained must get "back to basics" in executing its core business fundamentals, admitting that the tech giant struggled in this area during fiscal 2011.
Whitman also vowed to increase the company's investment in R&D, a clear nod to critics who have
the tech giant to ramp up its innovation engine.
Whitman outlined a
for HP's software business, aiming to double or triple the company's software revenue, although investors are still waiting for specific details on how this will be achieved.
Investors will be eager to hear more details about HP's strategic direction during the conference call.
Written by James Rogers in New York.
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