HP loses 4,000 employees in quarter, accelerates employee departures

Hewlett-Packard saw the departure of 4,000 employees during its third fiscal quarter, a faster rate of decline than originally predicted by the technology giant as it cuts back on its expenses.

Meg Whitman, the chief executive of HP, disclosed the updated numbers in an earnings conference call with analysts this afternoon. She said that HP now expects about 11,500 employees to depart this fiscal year, ending Oct. 31, compared to the previous estimate of 9,000 employees.

HP hopes to cut its employee count by 27,000 employees by the end of 2014. HP currently has around 350,000 employees. (it did not update the number; last October, it was 349,600.) HP also did not say how many employees joined the company during the quarter.  The headcount is interesting in part because HP is one of the biggest tech employers, and its inflow and outflow of employees affects the overall job market, particularly in Silicon Valley.

HP hit its earnings targets for the third fiscal quarter that ended at the close of July, but it reported a historic GAAP-based loss of $8.9 billion, the biggest loss in HP’s 73-year history, thanks to a big write-off in its services division.

Whitman said in the call that the company was making progress in becoming more efficient, becoming easier to do business with, and easier to understand. She said the challenges to its financial performance continue to be tough macroeconomics, tough industry trends, and execution issues. She said the rate of revenue declines are slowing and that HP is “still in the early stages of our turnaround.”

The company is realigning its sales force, and this is impacting results in the near term. Segments that grew during the quarter included storage, networking, commercial printer ink sales, and “hyperscale” services. Pricing in hardware is still challenging, but HP believes it gained market share in high-end PC sales. The headwinds will continue in the fiscal fourth quarter, so the company now predicts its earnings per share to be at the low end of the previously predicted range.

The mainstream server business continues to be weak. Ink sales are improving through a new affordable pricing plan in emerging markets. HP is pushing heavily into cloud businesses, and it has 750 customers for its HP Cloud System service. It has, for instance, targeted cloud services at airline companies.

Cathie Lesjak, HP’s chief financial officer, said that its Autonomy division, acquired for $10 billion, still requires a lot of attention.

HP closed the quarter with $9.9 billion.

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