HP boss promises return to stability

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The Independent Online

The new chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, Meg Whitman, launched broadsides against her two predecessors last night, as she promised to return the troubled IT giant to health.

Presenting her first quarterly results since taking over in September, she promised to "reduce the drama" of the Léo Apotheker era, and to restore investment in research and development that was cut under Mark Hurd, the last chief executive but one.

Analysts have criticised HP for failing to adapt to the arrival of tablet computers, which led to a slump in sales to consumers. Mr Apotheker responded to the problem by proposing to sell the consumer business altogether, but he was fired after a shareholder outcry and Ms Whitman reversed the decision.

Last night's results underscored the scale of the problem. In the last three months of the financial year to 31 October, sales of HP personal computers for consumers were down 9 per cent and sales of printers were down 8 per cent. The uncertainty created by Mr Apotheker's strategic U-turns contributed to the size of the downturn, Ms Whitman said, adding to competitive pressures and weak consumer spending.

The rest of HP's business, which includes hardware for corporate customers plus software and IT services, recorded only mixed results. Overall, full-year profit slumped to $239m from $2.5bn the year before, but most of the decline was the result of restructuring charges.

Ms Whitman signalled that she would put R&D spending at the heart of her strategy for reviving HP's fortunes. She ruled out making any more big acquisitions – nothing over $1bn, she said.