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HP boss absorbs losses, sees more storms ahead

– Coming off the biggest quarterly loss in Hewlett-Packard’s history, CEO Meg Whitman braced investors for even more trouble ahead as she methodically tries to fix a range of long-standing problems. Those challenges will be compounded by a feeble economy that Whitman expects to weaken even more.

HP said the internal and economic turmoil will cause its earnings to fall more than 10 percent next year, a decline that hadn’t been anticipated by analysts who follow one of the world’s largest – and most dysfunctional – technology companies.

Whitman delivered the disappointing forecast Wednesday at a meeting that the ailing Silicon Valley pioneer held for analysts and investors. The gathering gave Whitman the opportunity to persuade Wall Street that she has come up with a compelling strategy for turning around HP one year after being named CEO.

Investors evidently didn’t like what they heard. HP’s stock fell 13 percent after Whitman’s presentation, shoving shares to their lowest level in nearly a decade.

HP’s troubles stem from a combination of managerial malaise, high-priced acquisitions that haven’t paid off and an inability to offset the damage done to its personal computer and printer divisions by the rising popularity of smartphones and tablet computers.

Whitman said she inherited a bloated, poorly managed company that hasn’t been innovating quickly enough in any of its divisions, which span from PCs and printers to software and data storage.

In a recurring theme during her tenure, she said she will instill the discipline, focus and accountability needed to rehabilitate HP, but she reiterated that the recovery will take time to complete.

It could be 2015 before Hewlett-Packard Co.’s revenue growth begins to accelerate again, she said. By 2016, she envisions HP’s revenue increasing as the same pace as the U.S. economy’s overall growth, with earnings rising at a faster clip.

“It is going to take longer to right this ship than any of us would like.”

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