HP Preps Q3 Results, Dell Delays

Updated: Both companies were set to announce quarterly financial results on Nov. 16, but issues with an SEC probe has forced Dell to postpone.

Following several months of corporate scandals and business miscues, rivals Dell and Hewlett-Packard were each scheduled to face investors on Nov. 16 and report their latest quarterly results.

Now, HP will go at it alone.

Late in the day on Nov. 15, Dell announced that it would delay its third-quarter financial results. The Round Rock, Texas, PC maker posted a message on its Web site that stated it had delayed its earnings due to the "complexity" of calculating the results and an ongoing probe by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

"The move from the originally scheduled date of Nov. 16 reflects the level of complexity the company is facing in the preparation of its preliminary results," according to a statement posted on Dells Web site.

The statement added: "This complexity arises out of the ongoing investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the companys Audit Committee into certain accounting and financial reporting matters, and the fact the company has not filed its Form 10-Q for the second fiscal quarter."

The SEC had announced that it was requiring information from Dell related to revenue recognition but no formal charges had been filed. Now the SEC has issued a formal order of investigation, according to Dell.

Before the late announcement by Dell, it seemed that Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP would offer the better financial outlook.

After a financial quarter filled with headlines about its boardroom, analysts at Thomson First Call are calling for HP to earn 64 cents a share during its financial fourth quarter, a 25 increase from the 51 cents a share it earned a year ago. Those same analysts are looking for revenue to increase from $22.9 billion to $24.1 billion.

Analysts agree that HP has not suffered any ill effects on its balance sheet following revelations that the companyindulged in pretexting—the process of obtaining an individuals personal data by pretending to be that person—and the resignation of its chairman, Patricia Dunn.

The company has managed to move forward. On Oct. 19, Gartner and IDC released reports that showed that HP had overtaken Dell in PC sales both worldwide and in the United States.

In addition, the company has managed to keep up with IBM with its server business.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about HPs new storage blade.

Chris Foster, an analyst with Technology Business Research, in Hampton, N.H., said he would look to see if HP can increase its software business profits from double digits. Foster is also curious to see how HP improved its services business.

"It appears that HP is flipping the switch and trying to grow its services business," Foster said. "Mark Hurd [HPs president, chairman and CEO] is working to drive some growth there."

As for its server business, Foster said HP is running neck-and-neck with IBM in the x86 and blade space. As for PC sales, HP will likely benefit from back-to-school and pre-holiday sales as well as its new found status over Dell.

"Right now, they have a good distribution channel and a favorable product mix," Foster said, adding this combination should produce better margins for the company in its PC business.

As for Dell, the financial picture appears a little murkier.

For its financial third quarter, Thomson is calling for profits of 24 cents a share, which is down 38 percent from a year ago. However, analysts were calling for a revenue increase of 3.6 percent from $13.9 billion to $14.4 billion.

Those numbers are a slight improvement on its second-quarter numbers, which were announced Aug. 17, of 22 cents a share and $14.1 billion in profit. Since that time, the company has vowed to improve its lot, offering a new program called Dell 2.0 that looks to improve customer relations and has begun to offer new PCs and servers with Advanced Micro Dynamic processors.

Like HP, Dell has struggled through problems. It was forced to recall more than 4 million Sony battery packs and the SEC probe has compounded the companys problems.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about Dells recent purchase of ACS, a European IT services company.

Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata, in Nashua, N.H., said its too early to tell if Dells 2.0 gamble and its embrace of AMD will pay off.

"Im not really sure what these numbers will tell us," Haff said.

Part of the problem, according to Haff, is that the 2.0 solution is more of tweak of the companys existing sales and production model and a not a radical new way of doing business. A problem with Dells early success is that it leveled the playing field and allowed other PC makers to imitate its sales model.

The result is that Dell is beginning to lag behind as its tries to reinvent itself with strategies like 2.0.

"Its more like Dell 1.2 than 2.0," Haff said. "Its still a good strategy. Its just a matter of executing it."

Editors Note: This story was updated to include information and comments from Dell.

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