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Wait, what's that shuffling from 2013's gloom? It's a bloodied but unbowed HP

Revenues keep shrinking, but could an end be in sight?

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The near unthinkable has happened. Despite a troubled year for the PC industry and a generally poor outlook for the next one, HP has managed to report good news for its fourth quarter, beating expectations both for the quarter and for fiscal 2013.

That's not to say it isn't still being battered by the market slowdown. Revenues for the quarter were $29.1bn, down 3 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2012. But analysts were expecting much worse, with the worthies assembled by Yahoo! Finance predicting a decline of 6.8 per cent, on average.

Full-year sales showed similarly encouraging signs. Net revenues for fiscal 2013 were $112.3bn, down 7 per cent from the previous year. But in her guidance from Q3, HP CFO Cathie Lesjak said to expect a full-year revenue to drop between 8 and 9 per cent, and in Q2 a gloomy HP was predicting a decline of as much as 13 per cent. Whoever said the tech market wasn't a turbulent one?

Diluted net earnings per share were $1.01 for the quarter and $3.56 for fiscal 2013, both of which also beat analysts' expectations (albeit slightly).

Net income was $1.4bn for the quarter and $5.1bn for the year, which was much better than the $6.9bn loss it reported in Q4 of 2012 and the whopping $12.7bn loss it reported for that whole year. Still, it must be remembered that most of HP's woes in 2012 were due to its botched Autonomy acquisition.

As such, HP has no room to rest on its laurels. Sales slumped across nearly every business segment this quarter. Still, there are signs that HP may actually be managing to stanch the worrying bleeding that has plagued it in recent months.

How the sales stack up (or not as the case may be)

Revenues for the Personal Systems group were $8.58bn for the quarter, a decrease of just 2 per cent over Q4 of 2012, compared to a year-on-year decline of 11 per cent in Q3. Sales of desktop PCs were down 5 per cent but notebook sales were actually up 4 per cent, which translated into a 2 per cent increase in the total volume of units sold.

As in past quarters, the commercial sector was stronger for HP than the consumer one. In this case, commercial sales were up 4 per cent while consumer revenues declined 10 per cent, year over year. But again, that was a lot better than the 22 per cent slump in consumer sales that HP saw in Q3.

Even more encouraging, total revenues for the Personal Systems group for fiscal 2013 were $32.07bn, a decrease of 10.2 per cent from 2012 – which, as anyone could tell you, might have been a lot worse.

Quarterly revenues for the Printing group were $6bn, a meager 1 per cent decline from last year's fourth quarter. Printer sales increased across the board, with commercial sales up 9 per cent and consumer sales up 4 per cent. Sales of supplies, on the other hand, were down 4 per cent.

Total Printing group revenues for the year were $23.85bn, a 2.6 per cent decline from 2012. When viewed as a single group, Personal Systems and Printing together brought in $55.93bn in 2013, which was 7.1 per cent worse than they did last year.

HP's Software business didn't look so good this quarter, with year-on-year revenues down 9 per cent, to $1.06bn. Particularly worrying were revenues from software licensing, which, while flat in Q3, were down 24 per cent this time around, year on year. Professional services revenues were also down 14 per cent, while support revenues were up 4 per cent and revenues from software-as-a-service (SaaS) were up 15 per cent. Total Software sales were $3.91bn for the year, a decrease of 3.6 per cent.

Enterprise Services looked a bit sickly, as well. Quarterly revenues were $5.76bn, down 9.3 per cent from the year-ago quarter. And the group's revenues for all of fiscal 2013 were $23.52bn, an 8.2 per cent decline from 2012's figure.

Similarly, HP Financial Services revenues were down 6 per cent in the quarter and down 5 per cent for 2013, with total revenues of $912m and $3.62bn, respectively.

Brace yourself, we've found some light in the gloom

The bright spot for the quarter – or the dimly flickering ray of light, at least – was the Enterprise Group. With its revenues up 2 per cent year-on-year to $7.6bn, it was the only one of HP's business units to show some actual growth. Sales of networking equipment were up 3 per cent, sales of industry-standard servers up 10 per cent, and storage sales up 1 per cent.

But even here, the Enterprise Group's technology services revenues were down 6 per cent and sales of HP's vaunted Business Critical Systems – including its various Itanium-based big iron – were down a worrying 17 per cent from Q4 of 2012. And on a yearly basis, the Enterprise Group's revenues declined, dropping 5.4 per cent to $28.2bn for all of fiscal 2013.

So the quarter's results, while encouraging, were still a mixed bag for HP. On the one hand, its cost cutting measures do seem to have had a substantial effect. On the other, its revenues continue to shrink – and particularly in the consumer market, it's far from being out of the woods yet.

Investors seemed cautiously optimistic about HP's results this quarter, however, and while the company's share price was down slightly at Wall Street's closing bell, it rallied in after-hours trading to land at $26.80 per share. ®

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