HP Shouldn't Be Cheaper Today

By almost any measure, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) just showed some serious muscle. Revenue in the second quarter grew 11% year over year to $28.3 billion, and earnings per share rocketed ahead by 24% to $0.87. The slow economy at home isn't much of a problem, as 70% of sales come from abroad.

Wait, there's more: Management increased its revenue guidance for the 2008 fiscal year to at least $114.2 billion, a $700 million boost from the last update in February, and added $0.04 to its full-year earnings guidance to make it $3.54 or more per share.

And yet the stock dropped by nearly 2% on the news. Oh, that crazy Mr. Market!

What's going on here?
It can't be concerns about the pending EDS (NYSE: EDS  ) acquisition. That's week-old news by now, and should already be fully accounted for. The improved guidance above does not include EDS, though -- the deal isn't expected to close in time to have a material effect. Management did spend some time during the earnings call fending off questions about that project from concerned analysts, but always came up with credibly positive responses and ended up assuring us that the integration costs should be minimal.

The generous share-repurchase program isn't even applying the brakes, thanks to the hands-off approach that lets EDS remain mostly independent -- much like VMware (NYSE: VMW  ) did when EMC (NYSE: EMC  ) was its corporate parent -- along with $4.1 billion in free cash flow this quarter.

Then what?
Well, I'm stumped. Maybe HP shareholders were wishing that they owned IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) instead, because Big Blue grew its earnings a bit faster. If HP wants to be IBM, then why not just buy the original?

That's probably not exactly it, but I dare you to find a better explanation. The upshot is that HP stock is a little cheaper today than yesterday, even though the company has proven that its business prospects are a little bit stronger than we thought. You know what to do.

Further Foolishness:

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure thinks that Mr. Market is off his meds again.


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