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Hewlett Packard's Q4 profits have beaten Wall Street expectations but are $481m down from a year earlier.

The company earned $361 million, down $842 million in Q4 a year ago. Sales fell to $10.9 billion from $13.3 billion - the expectation had been for HP to turnover $9.9 billion in the period.

Net profit, including a $282m pre-tax restructuring charge for shedding staff, and other extraordinary items, bombed to $100 million, from $930 million in the quarter a year earlier.

Chief exec Carly Fiorina's positive spin is : "Results were driven by excellent execution in imaging and printing and good performance in services. While overall computing systems results remain weak, we saw improvement in certain segments including storage and PCs."

For the year, HP reported earnings per share of 89 cents on sales of $45.2 billion. In fiscal 2000, the company had annual earnings per share of $1.74 on revenues of $48.8 billion.

HP's computing systems business - which includes workstations, desktops, notebooks, mobile devices, UNIX and PC servers, storage and software - saw sales drop 31 per cent year on year, and just one per cent on the last quarter.

PC server sales slumped 44 per cent from last year, and 11 per cent on Q3. Commercial desktop revenues declined by 39 per cent year on year, 11 per cent sequentially.

Consumer PC revenues grew 23 per cent on Q3, but were down 37 per cent year-over-year. The home PC business broke even worldwide and even managed to generate profits in North America.

Notebook sales grew 10 per cent on Q3 business, but dropped 12 per cent on last Q4.

For the fourth quarter, UNIX server revenue was down 30 per cent year on year, and 11 per cent sequentially. The business remained profitable.

HP said it had shed 4,000 of the 6,000 workers it planned to eliminate by 31 October. The remaining 2000 will go in the first half of fiscal 2002. ®

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