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Whitman pleaded patience as she described “a multiyear journey.”

Investors responded by selling shares of HP. The Palo Alto, Calif., company’s stock fell $1.89, or 6.5 percent, to close Thursday at $27.05. Its market value of $54 billion compares with $104 billion about a year ago.

Louis R. Miscioscia, an analyst with Collins Stewart, said the stock looks cheap, but a turnaround now seems further away. He noted that IBM Corp., which transformed from a dying PC maker to a leading provider of software and services, had to work hard for more than a half decade to get there.

Nonetheless, he raised his price target on HP’s stock Thursday to $28, from $25.

Of course, HP may be intentionally setting expectations low.

Analyst Shaw Wu at Sterne Agee said many investors dismissed Cisco Systems Inc. a year ago, after its focus got scattered from expanding into too many new markets. But the network-equipment maker has reported a few good quarters in a row. The stock is up nearly 50 percent since Aug. 10.

Wu expects HP’s revenue decline to start slowing by midyear. That’s when supplies of hard drives should rebound. Soon after that, HP could see increased sales from an upcoming release of Microsoft’s Windows 8, an operating system that would work similarly on PCs and tablet computers.

If that’s the case, a turnaround may happen sooner and reward investors who buy HP’s stock now and hang on to it.

“It’s tough to count them out,” he said. “They have a lot of the ingredients. It boils down to execution. At least they have a game plan in place.”