- Associated Press - Monday, November 19, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Hewlett-Packard’s fourth-quarter earnings will provide the latest snapshot of a technology pioneer struggling to regain its edge as its personal computers and printers lose their appeal in a market tilting toward smartphones and tablets.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The results, due out before the stock market opens Tuesday, will close the books on a miserable year for the company, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif. The latest reporting period spanning from August through October will likely mark the fifth consecutive quarter that HP’s revenue has declined from the previous year.

The slump has deepened since HP hired Meg Whitman as its CEO nearly 14 months ago. Whitman so far has focused on cutting jobs and reorganizing the company’s structure while repeatedly telling analysts and investors that it will take several years before the turnaround is complete.

Investors are getting tired of waiting. HP’s stock has been trading at its lowest levels in a decade. Since Whitman became CEO, the company’s stock price has sunk by about 40 percent. The shares gained 45 cents to $13.30 in Monday’s late afternoon trading.

Whitman, who previously had a successful stint as CEO of eBay Inc., has maintained that she inherited a bloated, poorly managed company that hasn’t been innovating quickly enough in any of its divisions, which span from PCs and printers to software and data storage.

All signs suggest HP lost more ground in the latest quarter. Two different research reports concluded HP lost more PC market share in the quarter, with one study asserting that Lenovo Group Ltd. had supplanted PC as the world’s top seller of PCs. In another indication that the quarter was likely a rocky one, HP rival Dell Inc. last week reported its revenue and earnings shrunk as consumers and businesses embraced less expensive mobile devices for their computing needs.

HP and Dell share many of the same problems, raising the likelihood that their quarterly results will be similarly disappointing.

At least the fourth quarter shouldn’t be as bad as the third quarter when HP sustained an $8.9 billion loss, mostly because of a charge to account for the diminished value of Electronic Data Systems, a technology consulting service acquired for $13 billion in 2008.

WHY IT MATTERS: Despite its struggles, Hewlett-Packard Co. remains a Silicon Valley icon and a major employer through the world. It is also one of the 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial average, so its performance sways the widely watched barometer and affects perceptions about the overall health of the stock market.

WHAT’S EXPECTED: After subtracting certain accounting charges, analysts polled by FactSet predict the company will earn $1.14 per share on revenue of $30.5 billion.

LAST YEAR’S QUARTER: HP earned $239 million, or 12 cents per share, on revenue of $32.1 billion. If not for certain accounting charges, HP would have earned $1.17 per share last year.

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