Business, Enterprise, Hardware

HP Is Spinning About Making Decisions

While changing of its CEO, HP is also changing its mind. On Friday, DigiTimes shared a rumor that Hewlett-Packard’s decision to spin off their PSG (Personal Systems Group) unit will wait until the end of 2011.

This is the same story all of HP’s vice-presidents have been mouthing since August 19th, the day after ex-CEO Leo Apotheker mumbled his plans to overhaul HP and make it a software and services company.

With Apotheker at the helm, the market cap of HP had shrunk from $92 billion to $45 billion. During only one year of Apotheker, which ended on September 22, HP’s shares fell by 46 percent from a high of nearly $50. On Thursday, HP shares closed at $23.78. On Friday, after the DigiTimes article, their shares closed at $22.45, down another 5.59 percent.

This is how well HPQ stock lived and died during Leo Apotheker's reign. From $49.38 to $22.08, more than half of the value lost
This is how badly HPQ stock endured Leo Apotheker’s reign. From $49.38 to $22.08, more than half of the value lost

Last week HP’s new CEO, Meg Whitman, said the decision on what to do with PSG will be soon, because it is "not like wine that improves with age."

Todd Bradley, future CEO of HP PSG Spin off or still a SVP in HP if the PSG doesn't get spun off...Todd Bradley, the head of Hewlett-Packard ‘s PSG, has faced many questions about its future since ex-CEO Apotheker muttered last month that "maybe, maybe not" PSG would be spun off. PSG, which includes everything from PCs to mobile devices, workstations, printers and ink supplies, personal storage solutions, and Internet services, is a $43 billion chunk of HP’s $142 billion in yearly sales.

Bradley said earlier this month: "There are so many things that we need to work through on this spinning" – spinning is a good description of the decision making process of HP’s management and Board of Directors during August. In the mean time, Bradley has been collecting frequent flier miles visiting Asia, Europe, and all across the USA. He is telling everybody that HP will still be selling hardware next year.

Assuming a spinoff is completed, the arrangement could theoretically allow the PC business to spend more money developing next-generation products. That would allow PSG to make mobile products with Microsoft and Google Android operating systems as well as the webOS. However, the PSG division is the world?s largest reseller of Microsoft Windows. Microsoft may not be thrilled about their biggest reseller adding Google Android products to their portfolio.

Whitman hasn’t exactly clarified any decision on the PSG spinoff because at the same time she acknowledged problems with delaying. She said: "I will obviously step back and take a hard look at this," which the market interprets as HP’s Board of Directors not being unanimous about the spin-off of PSG. HP’s Board has never been seen as a beacon of consistency – they are now on their seventh CEO choice since 1999.

In a US SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) regulatory filing, HP said Whitman will receive one dollar per year as salary. However, Whitman’s target bonus for the coming year is $2.4 million, and could reach $6 million if she hits the highest performance measures. She also has an option to purchase 1.9 million shares at $23.59 which vest fully if she stays at the company for three years. This means the options will only turn a profit if the share price goes up, and the shares will only vest fully if the share price rises by at least 40 percent. That is a serious switch in direction from Apotheker?s downhill plunge of HP stock.

HP agreed to pay Apotheker $7.2 million over 18 months, the company disclosed in the same SEC filing. The filing said he will also get $3.5 million in restricted HP shares and a $2.4 million bonus for his time at the company. The company also agreed to reimburse Apotheker up to $300,000 for any losses incurred on the sale of his California house. He and his wife get airfare back to either France or Belgium as part of his severance package.

Apotheker gets roughly $13 million in cash and stock as his golden parachute. That is not bad pay for a year of sending HP’s stock into the dumpster, spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) to their retail customers, and more importantly really scaring HP’s reseller base. Apotheker?s prospects that a large company will sign him on as CEO are very poor, at best. [Unless, they are crazy. Ed.]

HP employees that BSN* has spoken with are just glad to still have their paychecks. Most hope someone can turn this giant corporation?s prospects around and deliver stable future growth. Whitman’s second week on the job has not gotten any signs of investor confidence in her [interim? Ed.] performance.