HP's Cost-Cutting May Include Shedding Divisions

The news surrounding Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ  ) recent 10-K filing centered on the revelations that several governmental and industry oversight departments -- including the SEC, U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.K. Serious Fraud Office -- had opened investigations into HP's Autonomy deal. After everything that's occurred since the Autonomy acquisition debacle, the introduction of investigative bodies isn't surprising, as discussed in more detail in a recent article.

HP's 10-K filing went on to discuss its plans to reduce the workforce by as much as 29,000 across multiple divisions, in its efforts to streamline operations and manage overhead. Again, not surprising, and most HP shareholders were likely familiar with the news. But after digging a bit deeper into the SEC filing, CEO Meg Whitman laid the groundwork for what could become an entirely new Hewlett-Packard in 2013.

After further review
It should be noted that 10-K, and other SEC-related filings, are often chock-full of speculative statements, disclaimers, and a laundry list of "possibles" for the coming year, that's the nature of filings. The onus is on the filing company to address any and all potential changes that may arise in the near future.

What makes HP's recent 10-K, and the disclosures within it, worthy of consideration are the specifics Whitman includes, such as, "[We will] continue to evaluate the potential disposition of assets and businesses that may no longer help us meet our objectives." It's pretty clear; Whitman's statements left the door wide open for HP to shed entire underperforming business units; and it's about time.

Based on the 5% jump in HP's share price today, I'm not the only one reinvigorated by HP's (apparent) willingness to take drastic steps to right the ship; long-suffering investors are ready for change, too.

It won't be easy, regardless
The Autonomy deal is only the latest in a long line of HP buyout mishaps. More than $67 billion in acquisitions in the past 10 years, for a $29 billion company, says it all. More distressing for shareholders has been HP's slow transition from the dying PC market to new, innovative technology solutions -- particularly in the mobile, cloud, and enterprise computing markets.

Dell (NASDAQ: DELL  ) , HP's longtime competitor, may not be on the leading edge of the brave new IT world, but it's certainly further along. Recent acquisitions including Quest Software and its software services, along with enterprise solutions provider Gale Technologies, are two reasons Goldman  Sachs upgraded Dell -- yes, the PC maker -- to a buy.

While the number of positive steps in HP's transformation, from PCs to emerging technologies, doesn't include overwhelming successes, there are signs of life. Inroads in the increasingly crowded cloud computing and enterprise arenas haven't borne fruit for HP as yet, but the solutions are there. The recent announcement HP's WebOS is alive and breathing, and now running some of Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) successful Nexus products, is a positive step in the right direction.

Hopefully, Whitman's allusion to cutting losing business units is more than idle CEO-speak. The Google/WebOS arrangement is nice, and indicative of HP's efforts to move beyond the PC market -- a la Dell. But its 3.5% dividend yield, and the nice run shareholders have enjoyed the past month, aren't sustainable with HP's flat-to-declining revenue growth, and long-term debt nearly twice its $11.3 billion in cash.

No more trimming around the edges; if 2013 is going to mark the return of Hewlett-Packard, Whitman needs to be as aggressive as she is in her 10-K filing.

The massive wave of mobile computing has done much to unseat the major players in the PC market, including venerable technology names like Hewlett-Packard. However, HP's attempting to shift its strategy under the new leadership of CEO Meg Whitman. But does this make HP one of the least-appreciated turnaround stories on the market, or is this a minor blip on its road to irrelevance? The Motley Fool's technology analyst details exactly what investors need to know about HP in our new premium research report. Just click here now to get your copy today.


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