Though its stock price has backed off a bit since hitting a new 52-week high of $23.53 a share Thursday, HP Enterprise (HPE 1.07%) owners are still enjoying a more than 50% jump in value this year. That kind of appreciation can set off alarms among those who "missed the boat." But in HP Enterprise's case, there's still time to climb aboard and enjoy the ride, despite what some pundits say.
HP Enterprise's consensus price target is $23.02 a share -- below its current level -- with what amounts to a "hold" rating. It's not hard to see why it has received such a blasé outlook from the Street, given HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman's game-changing moves in recent months. Big changes can lead to uncertainty, and that often translates to a "wait-and-see" mentality in the market. But for investors in search of long-term growth and tremendous value, HP Enterprise is still worth a good, hard look.
Change is good
The objective of last year's split with what is now called HP Inc. was to unlock value, shave overhead, and allow HP Enterprise to become a more nimble, focused player in its core competencies, such as infrastructure and software products and services. So far, so good based on several key metrics from HP Enterprise's fiscal 2016 Q3 earnings report.
HP Enterprise cut a whopping $5.1 billion in total expenses in Q3 compared to a year ago, led by a nearly $700 million paring of sales-related costs. The leaner, meaner HP Enterprise was able to increase non-GAAP (excluding one-time items) operating margins to 8.8%, up from last year's 8.5%. The result was a 9% jump in earnings per share after accounting for the split with HP. Not bad considering total sales declined 6% to $12.2 billion.
The more recent changes began in May, when HP Enterprise announced a spin-off/merger of its enterprise services unit to Computers Sciences Corp (CSC). According to Whitman, the move will allow HP Enterprise to "further sharpen its leadership in building the vital end-to-end infrastructure solutions necessary to power the enterprise cloud and mobility revolutions."
Shareholders of HP Enterprise can expect an estimated $8.5 billion in after-tax value from the deal, which includes a 50% equity stake in CSC equal to $4.5 billion, a $1.5 billion dividend payout, and assuming about $2.5 billion in debt. The CSC arrangement also rids HP Enterprise of its lowest margin business.
Let's do that again
HP Enterprise's worst-performing unit, as measured by year-over-year declines, was handily its software division. Though it accounted for just 6% of HP Enterprise's $12.2 billion in revenue last quarter, the unit's $738 million in sales nosedived 18%. That, too, will soon be remedied thanks to HP Enterprise's decision to spin-off and merge its "non-core software assets" with U.K.-based Micro Focus (MCFU.F).
The Micro Focus deal is valued at $8.8 billion, which includes a $2.5 billion payment to HP Enterprise, and it will retain a 50.1% ownership position in what will be "one of the world's largest pure-play enterprise software companies." As per Whitman, the spin-off/merger of its enterprise services division with Micro Focus will create "a faster-growing, higher-margin, stronger cash flow company."
When it's all said and done HP Enterprise investors will have an ownership stake in three industry leaders that offer a host of complementary offerings. Just imagine the product and service synergies and joint sales opportunities that will arise when the deals close by the end of Q1 2017. The possibilities are endless and will benefit all parties involved, particularly HP Enterprise shareholders.
From a value perspective, HP Enterprise stock, even near its 52-week high, still trades at just 9 times trailing earnings: That's about half the P/E ratio of most of its peers. Whitman has HP Enterprise poised to succeed where it counts -- in high margin, fast-growing markets. Add to that its relative value, and HP Enterprise stock is still a bargain.