UPDATE: HP first quarter profit jumps

Hewlett-Packard grew net income to $US0.55 a share, up from $US0.42 a share a year ago, in Q1 2007 results reported Tuesday

HP topped Wall Street's revenue and earnings expectations in the first quarter of its 2007 fiscal year.

While happy with what its CEO called a "solid quarter," HP said it would seek to further control costs by putting an end to its defined benefit pension plan for long-time HP employees and is offering an early retirement package.

HP posted net income of $US1.5 billion, or $0.55 a share, in the quarter ended Jan. 31, 2007, compared to $1.2 billion, or $0.42 a share in the year ago quarter, the Palo Alto, California company said Tuesday.

Excluding $279 million in adjustments on an after-tax basis, net income for HP (NYSE:HPQ) was $1.8 billion, or $0.65 a share, exceeding the consensus forecast for $0.62 per share from analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

HP described the expenses as related primarily to the amortisation of purchased intangibles and in process research and development charges related to acquisitions. It also cited stock-based compensation expense in both current and prior years.

Revenue came in at $25.1 billion, up 11 per cent from last year's first quarter and above the $24.27 billion analyst forecast.

Growth came from HP's personal systems group, which is desktop and laptop computers for consumers, with a 17 per cent year-over-year revenue growth, and from imaging and printing, with 7 per cent revenue growth.

HP topped rival Dell Inc. as the leading seller of personal computers in 2006, according to IDC. At financially troubled Dell, former CEO and chairman, Michael Dell, returned to the CEO office, following the ouster of Kevin Rollins last month.

While Chairman and CEO, Mark Hurd, said the quarter was strong overall, he was disappointed with the company's enterprise storage and server products unit.

Revenue in that division grew 5 per cent to $4.5 billion and greater efficiency meant the company made more profit from the business. However, storage revenue alone grew only 3 per cent, Hurd said. Although its midrange EVA line of storage products sold well, sales of its tape storage products and high-end storage devices were weak.

"We have got to drive top line growth," he said. While HP has been hiring new sales people, it also needs to develop more sales prospects. "We just don't cover enough accounts," Hurd said.

Meanwhile, an austerity program at the company continues.

HP took further steps to reduce overhead by announcing the end of the company's pension plan as of Jan. 1, 2008, relying solely on a defined contribution plan as the company-sponsored employee retirement plan. In a defined contribution plan, such as a 401(k), an employer contributes a certain amount to a fund but doesn't guarantee a specific retirement benefit.

HP anticipates a "pension curtailment benefit" of $500 million from no longer funding pensions, but the savings will be largely offset by an early retirement incentive it is offering to employees, said Cathie Lesjak, HP's chief financial officer.

Lesjak said HP anticipates about 3000 employees will take the early retirement offer, which is good until May 31, and that most of the vacancies will be refilled.

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Robert Mullins

IDG News Service
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