HP Sees 2009 Revenue Growth Slowing, Margins Up

Hewlett-Packard Co, the world’s largest personal computer maker, said on Tuesday it expects revenue growth to slow to 5 percent to 6 percent in 2009, in line with analysts’ projections, and will boost profit margins as it continues to cut costs.

Chief Executive Mark Hurd has eliminated about 15,000 jobs since 2005 and consolidated data centers and real estate even as it spends billions of dollars to acquire software companies, its fastest-growing business.

HP executives, speaking at a meeting with analysts, also said they expect the company to keep making acquisitions and grow internally in 2009.

The revenue forecast assumes about $1 billion annually in acquisitions, Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak said at the briefing in New York.

Following fiscal 2008 revenue of $111.5 billion, HP forecast 2009 revenue of about $117.1 billion to $118.2 billion. The range is a slowdown from the 6.9 percent increase expected in the current fiscal year.

Analysts, on average, expect fiscal 2009 revenue of $117.8 billion, according to Reuters Estimates. HP’s estimates exclude the effects of fluctuating currencies.

Shares of HP closed down 2.3 percent to $50.78 on the New York Stock Exchange, pacing broader market declines sparked by a Federal Reserve interest rate cut that was less than some hoped.

HP last year unseated Dell Inc as the world’s PC market-share leader as it sold more notebook computers in retailers outside the United States. The strategy helped HP last month post better-than-expected quarterly results, while Dell disappointed investors with narrower-than-expected profit margins.

Texas-based Dell, hoping to regain the lead, responded this year by dropping its long-standing practice of only selling directly to customers and expects to sell PCs in 10,000 retail outlets by the end of this month, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc in North America and Carrefour SA in Europe.

HP said on Tuesday it expects revenue from software to grow 15 percent to 20 percent in fiscal 2009, while its PC business should grow 5 percent to 7 percent with operating profit margins of 5 percent to 5.5 percent.

HP, based in Palo Alto, California, forecast a 2009 profit of $3.74 to $3.84 a share before certain costs, compared with analysts’ estimate of $3.78 on that basis.

HP’s operating profit margin, the percentage of revenue remaining after costs of goods and operating expenses, will rise to 10 percent to 10.4 percent in 2009, HP said. HP reported an operating profit margin, excluding certain costs, of 9.2 percent in its fiscal 2007, ended October 31.

HP said last month it expected 2008 fiscal first-quarter revenue of $27.4 billion to $27.5 billion and earnings before certain costs of 80 cents per share. For all of fiscal 2008, HP in November forecast earnings per share before items of $3.32 to $3.37.

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