hp logoHewlett-Packard reported better than expected earnings for its fourth fiscal quarter ended Oct. 31, but its sales were a mixed bag as the company dealt with falling prices for consumer PCs and printers.

The world’s largest tech company is a bellwether for the overall tech economy, and while pricing pressure has been tough, HP’s performance should give the industry hope that a recovery is still in the works in the larger economy.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company reported a fiscal fourth-quarter profit of $2.4 billion, or 99 cents a share, compared with a profit of $2.1 billion or 84 cents a share for the same period a year ago. Non-GAAP earnings were $1.14 a share, a penny more than analysts had expected.

Revenue was $30.8 billion, down from $33.6 billion for the quarter in the previous year. Analysts had expected revenue of $30.4 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.

“I would say that going into 2010, we feel well positioned,” said Mark Hurd, chief executive of HP, in a conference call. “The economy is more stable, our EDS acquisition is integrated, our sales force is better.”

Hurd said the company plans to go “back on the attack” in various markets in 2010 and return to growth. And some of that growth will come through acquisitions. HP just agreed to acquire networking firm 3Com for $2.7 billion as part of a bid to compete with Cisco.

For the current quarter — which includes November, December and January sales — HP said it expects revenue of $29.6 – $29.9 billion and GAAP earnings in the range of 90 – 92 cents a share. HP said it expects adjusted earnings in the range of $1.03 to $1.05. That’s within the range of what analysts expect. Hurd said the printer market was picking up and that October was the strongest month in the quarter.

The results mean that consumers are getting great deals on computers and printers, but it’s increasingly hard to make money with them. HP’s Personal Systems group, which includes its PC business, reported an 8 percent rise in shipments, but revenues fell 12 percent to $9.9 billion. The numbers, while not that impressive, suggest that HP gained market share from Dell, which saw a big earnings drop in the quarter.

HP’s Imaging and Printing Group saw a 20 percent drop in shipments and a 15 percent fall in revenue. Services, meanwhile, saw an 8 percent revenue gain as HP got a gain from its $13 billion acquisition of EDS last year.

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