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HP reports services, BCS revenues flat

HP Q1 2011 ESS HP briefed analysts and the media on its first quarter of 2011 last night, and the numbers fell short of market mavens' expectations. The cash cow of services looks to be stalled, even while PC sales are up and the Business Critical Systems unit is no longer falling off prior quarters' revenues.

HP recorded a 16 percent increase in profits overall and booked more than $32 billion in sales throughout the company for Q1, which ended Jan. 31. But sales dropped by $183 million versus the same period of 2010, a ripple that worried the analysts and clipped HP's stock price by more than 10 percent overnight. The concerns run toward questions about the durability of acquiring companies to grow HP's business.

HP's enterprise businesses, which include replacements for the HP 3000, grew sales by 6 percent over Q1 of 2010. Nearly all of the rise came from the Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking segment, which includes the Business Critical Systems unit that sells HP-UX Integrity solutions. Alas, the HP breakout reports that BCS sales were flat. Most of the increase comes from the Industry Standard Servers (ProLiants) and Windows software -- still the most popular migration target for 3000 sites making a move. HP did say that it was "continuing to make good progress in displacing competitive Unix products." The overall BCS numbers, however, show there's an exit underway in the company's Unix business.

CEO Leo Apotheker wanted to point to other segments of HP's latest quarter. "Most importantly, I am very pleased with our Feb. 9 webOS announcement," he said. "We are excited about... the opportunity that webOS provides. The enthusiasm and anticipation for webOS exceeded even our most optimistic expectations." Results from these products will appear in the PC Systems group, which saw its sales dip 1 percent but its operating profits rise by $142 million for the quarter.

But Wall Street is a harsh mistress in the day following a quarterly announcement. Even improved numbers in profits won't sell an analyst whose estimates haven't been met. HP released a forecast for its total 2011 sales of $131.5 billion, which will be a record. The estimates were $132.9 billion, and so HP's stock slipped from $48.23 to below $43 for the first time since Jan. 1. The 11 percent fall in share price was the steepest since former HP CEO Mark Hurd was ousted in August of last year.