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HP-Compaq Deal Hits Key Targets...Two Years Late

Posted by: Peter Burrows on November 17, 2005

When I saw HP’s impressive earnings numbers today, they sounded vaguely familiar to those that HP management promised during the proxy fight over that controversial merger back in 2001. And it’s true, at least for the two key businesses that the merger was supposed to help most: PCs, and enterprise gear such as servers and storage. Indeed, HP’s PC unit more than doubled its profits, posting an operating margin of 2.8%. That compared to management’s projection back then of 3.0%. The enterprise unit made even more progress, quadrupling profits to hit an operating margin of 9.1%, within a hair of the projection of 9.2%.

There’s just one problem. HP had promised to hit these marks two years ago, in its fiscal 2003. Still, better late than never, I suppose.

Clearly, HP CEO Mark Hurd’s efforts to tighten up HP’s operational execution are working (Indeed, HP employees were giddy today, having earned a 7% bonus—the first such payout in years). But it raises an interesting question: Was Carly Fiorina, who was ousted amid much investor displeasure about the results of the Compaq deal, right for doing this deal? Would HP be better off today if it hadn’t purchased Compaq, or as it is? Or put another way, should today’s earnings news be thought of as “Carly’s Last Laugh?” Or is Hurd the hero of the day, for having cleaned up a merger that many (including yours truly) felt was “Fiorina’s Fiasco”?

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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