HP's Apotheker pops up in California for earnings call

The new CEO said he has plans to grow HP's software business

Speaking publicly for the first time since he was appointed CEO of Hewlett-Packard in late September, Leo Apotheker on Monday said that HP will focus more on software and that he still has some learning to do about the company.

Apotheker spoke during a brief conference call with journalists to discuss the company's quarterly earnings report, where HP reported fourth-quarter net revenue of US$33.3 billion, up 8 percent from the same quarter last year. Net earnings for the quarter were $2.5 billion, up 5 percent over the same period in 2009.

HP has explained Apotheker's silence over the past month by saying that he was on a tour visiting HP employees and customers. That tour appears to have kept him away from California, where he could have otherwise been subpoenaed by Oracle to appear in court. Oracle has charged SAP with stealing software during a time when Apotheker was CEO of SAP.

During the conference call, Apotheker said that he'd been meeting with employees and customers around the world "from California to Massachusetts and Germany to Singapore with many stops in between."

When one reporter asked where he was, Apotheker noted that was an odd question but answered that he was in Palo Alto, California, at HP's headquarters. "Would you like a picture?" he quipped.

Apotheker said he is excited about HP's prospects but he has more work to do to learn about the company. "My top priority is to immerse myself deeper in the business," he said.

One area of growth he has already identified for HP is in software, which currently represents 3 percent of revenue for the company, he said. "But I think we can do a lot better," he said. "We feel that with software we can add a lot of value and strength to what we can do for our customers." HP would like to double or even triple the share of software revenue it brings in, he said.

In the fourth quarter, software revenue grew 1 percent year over year to $974 million, HP said.

HP is continuing to invest in ways to boost its services revenue, but that hasn't paid off just yet. Services revenue increased just 0.4 percent to $9 billion for the quarter, it said.

Its storage and servers business did the best, with 25 percent growth in the quarter, reaching $5.3 billion in revenue. The personal systems group's revenue grew 4 percent to $10.3 billion in the quarter, and the imaging and printing group was up 8 percent to $7 billion.

Apotheker took the helm of HP after Mark Hurd, the former CEO, resigned in a sexual harassment scandal. He settled with the former HP contractor who lodged the complaint and went on to accept the role of co-president at HP rival Oracle.

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