Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company (NYSE: HPE), HP Inc (NYSE: HPQ) , and Dell (NYSE: DELL) all reported results this week, as did Dell’s largest asset VMware (NYSE: VMW). On the face of it, HP Inc was the winner for the quarter with the stock price losing just 1.35%, while Dell and HPE both fell over 5%. The bigger picture is more complicated, and HP Enterprises may be the stronger performer over the next year.

 

Dell improves earnings despite revenue slowdown

Dell’s stock price fell more than 5% after the company reported its third-quarter results. The company’s EPS of $1.75 beat estimates by $0.16, while revenue of $22.93 billion was $100 million light of analysts forecasts.

While profitability remained strong, the company’s server and networking segment suffered from weaker than expected demand. Dell also reduced its revenue forecast to a midpoint of $92.15 billion, $1.4 billion less than consensus forecasts. The company sighted weaker demand related to the trade war and a shortage of Intel CPU chips. Although revenue is expected to be light of previous forecasts, Dell expects EPS for the full year to be at the upper end of its original $6.95 to $7.40 range.

The selloff appeared to be knee jerk reaction to the lower revenue guidance, but VMWare may also pose risks for investors. Dell’s 80% stake in VMWare, which also reported this week, is worth more than Dell’s market value. Although VMware beat estimates, its revenue growth continues to slow, while costs are accelerating. As we pointed out in September, VMWare is key to Dell’s stock price.

 

HP Enterprise delivers strong earnings growth despite declining sales and weak demand

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company’s fourth-quarter results mirrored Dell’s in several respects. HPE also beat on EPS and missed on revenue, and also sighted a shortage of Intel chips as a challenge.

Fourth-quarter EPS of $0.49 was $0.03 ahead of consensus and boosted by share buybacks and improved margins. Revenue of $7.2 billion was down 9% year on year and $200 million short of expectations. The revenue declines came across the board for the company’s major segments with weaker than expected demand and longer sales cycles to blame. Guidance for the first quarter of 2020 was in line with the analyst’s forecasts.

 

HP Incorporated

HP Incorporated, the PC and printer business spun out of Hewlett Packard, beat both revenue and earnings expectations, though earnings growth remains slow and net income was significantly lower year-on-year.

EPS were $0.6, $0.03 higher than estimates. Revenue was less than one percent higher than a year earlier and attributed to slow printer sales. Margins were in line with previous quarters across the board. The company plans to cut costs over the next year to save up to $1 billion.

 

Comparing the three

HPE is showing the strongest earnings growth as a result of share buybacks and business rationalization. Dell’s earnings growth is slower but is beginning to accelerate as debt is paid down. HP Inc’s growth has stagnated and the potential bid from Xerox appears to be the main underpinning for the stock price.

Dell is a little more expensive than HPE and HPQ, which is to be expected given the VMWare stake – which also poses the greatest threat to Dell’s valuation.

Dell’s strategy is to build scale in its core business, while HPE is shedding assets in a bid to become more responsive. HPE’s strategy may be better suited to the market uncertainty that seems likely in the next year.

Dell certainly has a lot of potential in the longer term. If its strategy of building scale pays off, its margins should improve, and if VMWare’s recent acquisitions pay off, further value will be created. There is also the potential for value to be unlocked if the VMware stake is unbundled. For now, though, VMware’s slowing EBITDA growth poses a serious risk to the stock price.

HP Inc’s stock price will depend on whether Xerox can put a bid on the table that shareholders approve of. Beyond that, the business is treading water.