Wall Street rails against HP's Apotheker

Leo Apotheker’s credibility as a CEO is falling along with Hewlett-Packard’s share price.

It seems that Wall Street does not think that Apotheker’s cunning plan of turning the maker of expensive printer ink into an SAP clone will work,

What has got shareholder’s goat is his “value destroying” $11.7 billion deal to buy British software maker Autonomy and flogging HP’s PC division.

It will take at least a year to close the deal on the sale of the hardware outfit and so customers will not buy HP because they will think it is going to be down the loo in a few months time.

We reported how this concern sent HP shares down almost 20 percent on Friday, wiping out $16 billion of value in a day.

Sceptics point out that since the action man Apotheker joined HP early last November, the company has lost almost 44 percent of its value. Many shareholders would have willingly paid for former CEO Hurd’s expenses for him to wine and dine soft porn stars rather that see shares tank that much. In fact for that sort of money they could have bought him a harem of his own.

Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst with Sanford Bernstein told Reuters  that if HP’s results don’t improve, the company will ultimately restructure its portfolio and/or replace its leadership.”

Pat Becker, fund manager at Portland, Oregon-based Becker Capital Management, said that Apotheker has continually failed to instil confidence in his conference calls with investors.

Each time he has piped up on the call, stock has fallen, Becker moaned.

A review of last week’s conference call about the announcements on Autonomy and the PC division, gave Apotheker nil points. Apparently he fudged a question about why he was writing such a large cheque for Autonomy. When asked about the vision for HP’s PC unit, he said he was not sure whether he was going to sell the outfit off or do a “potential “nontransaction.”

While the analysts think Apotheker’s long-term plan to get out of HP’s commoditised PC business is right and the Palm WebOS tablet and smartphone business was chucking money away, the $11.7 billion bill for Autonomy and his treatment of the PC business is seen as just daft.

To put it into perspective, HP’s purchase price is a stunningly rich 10 times sales of Autonomy, and its revenues are equal to only about one percent of HP’s.

There have been those who say that Apotheker is trying to do an IBM with HP and move it out of hardware and into services. IBM, on the other hand, transformed itself by selling its PC arm to China’s Lenovo in late 2004.

But when IBM did all that it was in deeper do-do than HP. It also had a plan. Apotheker may or may not do anything.

The decision to spike WebOS was also so sudden that TouchPad ads featuring “Glee” star Lea Michele continued to run on CNBC. HP flogged the Tablets for $99.