Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

After All Its Corporate Drama, Hewlett-Packard is Crazy Cheap, Bernstein Says

While it’s true that technology giant Hewlett-Packard has suffered from an overdose of corporate drama — it’s now on its third CEO in 13 months — there’s something good to take away from it all if you’re an investor who’s been sitting on the sidelines. Toni Sacconaghi, an analyst at Bernstein Research, argues that at its current valuation, HP is trading at ridiculously cheap levels.

In a note to clients today, Sacconaghi says that HP is the “most inexpensive tech stock in the S&P 500 and the 10th most inexpensive stock overall.” There are very few precedents, he says, for large-cap technology stocks trading at HP’s current valuation. Before this month, there had not been a large-cap tech stock that traded at less than 5.5 times earnings — not in the last 20 years.

At that level, he says, HP’s current valuation implies that its annual free cash flow will decline by 9 percent a year forever or, put another way, that HP will be half its size within seven years. Usually companies that trade so low have significant structural problems. HP, for all its faults, doesn’t meet that standard. It’s not “a broken company,” he says, it’s on track to grow earnings by 6 percent this year, and it leads in three of its four key lines of business — PCs, printers and servers.

So why the crazy-low valuation? “Investor exasperation.” (There’s that word again!) Investors have discounted it too much given all the drama, making it, believe it or not, a buying opportunity for “patient investors.” He rates HP an “outperform” with a price target of $37. Investors seemed to warm to the idea. HP shares finished the day up more than 3 percent.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald