HP after Hurd: 'We're looking forward, not back'

HP's interim CEO says the two weeks since Hurd's departure have been 'very busy'

Hewlett-Packard announced its third-quarter financial results on Thursday and insisted it was "looking forward, not back" following the surprise departure two weeks ago of Chairman and CEO Mark Hurd.

Cathie Lesjak, HP's chief financial officer who was also made interim CEO after Hurd's departure, told reporters that HP's strategy is unlikely to change when it appoints a new, permanent CEO.

"When you have a winning strategy I don't see the motivation to change it, and that's what we have here," she said during a brief conference call after the financial results were released.

HP's revenue for the quarter increased 11 percent from a year earlier to US$30.7 billion, the company said in a statement. Net profit was $1.8 billion, or $0.75 per share, up from $1.7 billion, or $0.69 per share, in the third quarter last year.

HP had already released preliminary numbers for the quarter, so Thursday's results were no surprise. It announced the figures on Aug. 6, the same day it revealed that Hurd was leaving the company following allegations of sexual harassment.

"The 300,000 employees of HP, the leadership team and I are looking forward, not back. We see an extraordinary opportunity ahead and we're working at full speed to go and get it," Lesjak said.

Quarterly sales were up in each of HP's main product groups, including the Enterprise Storage and Server division, where revenue increased 19 percent to $4.4 billion. Within that group, x86 server sales increased sharply, but sales of high-end Itanium-based systems were down by 15 percent, HP said.

Services revenue was up just 1 percent to $8.6 billion, and revenue from HP's Personal Systems Group, which sells laptop and desktop PCs, climbed 17 percent to $19.9 billion. Printer group revenue increased 9 percent to $6.2 billion, and revenue from HP's software group increased 2 percent to $863 million, HP said.

The company will host a longer conference call with financial analysts later on Thursday afternoon, where it may face further questioning about Hurd's departure and the company's strategy moving forward.

In announcing Hurd's departure two weeks ago, HP said it determined there was no violation of the company's sexual harassment policy. But it faulted Hurd for failing to disclose his relationship with an outside marketing contractor -- who turned out to be the actress Jodie Fisher -- and for falsifying some expense reports.

The seemingly minor nature of the offenses has led to speculation that there were other reasons for Hurd's departure. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera suggested last week that the board was simply looking for an excuse to fire Hurd because he was deeply unpopular.

Lesjak has said she is not interested in being HP's full-time CEO, and the company is now searching for a replacement.

Asked on the call how she has spent the past two weeks, Lesjak said: "I've spent the last couple of weeks being very busy. I have been singularly focused on keeping the employees executing on our strategy and aligned with us, and talking to customers to make sure they understand the situation, and I find they're behind us 100 percent," she said.

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James Niccolai

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