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Can Anything Save HP?

Robert Weinstein|Contributor
Tuesday, 26 Jun 2012 | 10:43 AM ET
Hewlett Packard
AP
Hewlett Packard

Investors of Hewlett-Packard are likely ready to smash some keyboards after looking at the price of the stock lately.

HP was trading well over $40 before the company started playing CEO musical chairs. The stock price was not helped when each new CEO changed course faster than a ping pong ball in in an Olympic match.

Monday, HP broke support at $20, less than half the price the company was trading at about a year ago. The market has effectively priced in a no confidence vote of the management. Not only is the trailing price-to-earnings ratio well under 10 at 7.6, but more importantly, the forward multiple is only 4.42.

Google has an earnings multiple of 11.16, Dell 5.86, Apple 10.57, and International Business Machines comes in at 11.59.

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From a point of view of building of revenue and profits, the market is clearly pricing in the lowest performance in HP out of these other tech companies. You could say I lost my confidence in HP, too. For years, I owed HP on and off again. Generally selling puts and upon exercise, I would write covered calls .

About a year ago the CPU certainly hit the fan, and I had a question put in front of me: Do I stick it out and hang on because I believed in the company, or do I cut and run with a smaller gain than I hoped to achieve.

I decided at the time I should hang on, but I would rotate out of the current options (covered calls) and move to a more defensive position writing in the money calls. Knowing that if I was wrong about HP the stock had much further to fall, it was the only reasonable way to stay exposed.

This game played on for several months. When I seriously questioned if things could get much worse (the dividend yield was climbing from the price drop and the price-to-earnings ratio was falling too), the other shoe dropped.

The second shoe wasn’t an Oxford, but one worn by Meg Whitman. I don’t care if the CEO is a man or woman, like most investors I only care about making money. I experienced firsthand customer service and leadership of Whitman as a customer of eBay (top-rated in volume and ratings) about 13 years ago. The experience didn’t leave a favorable impression of Whitman.

Michael Dell and the Texas team also have a long way to go before anyone confuses them with Apple. Both Dell and Apple started a dividend recently. Even though Dell, HP, IBM, and Apple play in segregated ballparks, it makes sense to compare and contrast the tech giants.

HP shares commonalities with IBM in their server businesses and other enterprise technologies. Like IBM, HP moved to exit the consumer-level product business.

I am not sure if dropping the consumer business segment would have resulted in a net positive or not, but I leaned towards not liking it. I use all HPs for my scanning and trading computer needs. I also use workstations, which I believe would not have been cut.

Microsoft needs to get Windows 8 out, and it needs to truly light a fire under consumers and business buyers if HP and Dell are to get the boost they so require right now.

At the same time, Microsoft may not be helping matters much with the release (or at least a showing) of a new product. We don’t know how much it will cost, or when it will go on sale, but we do know the name is “Surface.”

Surface also has an ultra-cool introductory video that sounds like the band Nine Inch Nails created it. The video is very edgy for Microsoft. Other than a name, colors it comes in, what it looks like, and a video, we don’t know much more.

HP exited the tablet business and licked its wounds. Dell is still in the tablet game, but maybe not a totally Windows tablet maker soon. Regardless, HP makes laptops and all the variants down to netbooks. HP will still have to compete against Microsoft.

The good news for HP is the stock has sold off so much, it is now due for a bounce higher. On the daily chart I read a TDCombo 13 (based on Tom DeMark Studies) Monday and expect to enter once again long with HP this week. I am looking at the $18 to 19 strike put options as the most desirable strikes.

—By TheStreet.com Contributor Robert Weinstein

Additional News: Hewlett-Packard CEO Whitman: Revamping Just Beginning

Additional Views: Hewlett-Packard Faces a ‘Dogfight’ for Talent: Analyst

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CNBC Data Pages:

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Disclosures:

TheStreet’s editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters, and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks. At the time of publication, Robert Weinstein did not hold a position in any stock mentioned.

Disclaimer

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