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HP’s Historic Loss: Can Meg Whitman Save the PC Giant? Can Anyone?

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HP (HPQ) reported its worst quarterly loss in its 73-year history Wednesday.

The PC-maker suffered an $8.9 billion loss in its fiscal third-quarter, or $4.49 a share. The hit to HP's bottom line was due in large part to an $8 billion write-off of its 2008 acquisition of Electronic Data Systems Corp. (EDS)

Excluding one-time charges, HP earned $2 billion in the quarter, down from $2.3 billion a year-ago amid a 5 percent drop in overall revenues to $29.7 billion.

The company's major PC business slowed in the quarter as sales dropped 10 percent from the previous year. Printer and notebook sales were down 23 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

HP's stock was down nearly 7 percent in early trading Thursday to $17.92.

While HP undergoes a major restructuring to offset declining PC sales and fend off growing competition from Asian PC makers, the company's newly minted CEO Meg Whitman remains "confident" HP can maneuver through its difficulties.

"We are still in the early stage of the turnaround. There will be challenges ahead that could create some variability in performance," Whitman said on the earnings conference call. "But I'm confident in our ability to work through them and get to where we want to be."

Whitman may be confident but her admission HP is in the "early stage" of its turnaround is spooking investors, who recall IBM's major difficulties in trying to restructure its business in the early 1990s.

Whitman sought to downplay such comparisons in an interview with The NY Times, but it's still likely to be very grim at HP for quite some time, as The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task and Henry Blodget discuss in the accompanying video.

HP plans to cut 27,000 jobs, or 8 percent of its total labor force, by 2014. By the end of this year, Whitman believes the company will have shed around 11,500 jobs.

Blodget believes the company's biggest issue right now is its huge debt load of roughly $30 billion. He says HP should consider selling some of its underperforming assets.

HP's stock is down 15 percent since Whitman took over last September after leaving her top-spot at EBay (EBAY) and the stock is down roughly 30 percent year-to-date.

The big question on everyone's mind is whether Whitman has what it takes to turn this mammoth global business around. There is nothing in her background to suggest she has the credentials to do it, say both Task and Blodget.

Meanwhile, noted short-seller Jim Chanos called HP a great short at CNBC's Delivering Alpha conference in July. The stock is "the ultimate value trap for investors," he said. "People will still buy PCs. It just won't be a very profitable business."

Tell us what you think! Do you think Whitman can successfully restructure HP? Or do you agree with Jim Chanos?

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