HP CEO commits to buyback program, says stock is ‘undervalued’

In a time where stock buyback programs have come under scrutiny, HP is sticking to the principles laid out in the company’s value plan, CEO Enrique Lores told CNBC Wednesday.

“We still think that buying back stock is Great because we think it’s undervalued” and “we are going to stay committed to the principles that we shared in the value plan,” he said in an interview with Jim Cramer on “Mad Money.”

Share buybacks have come under fire as some corporations sought government funding to help carry them through the downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Many businesses opted to suspend buybacks, as well as dividends, to hold on to cash flow, leading to record low buyback levels this quarter as employers grappled with the virus situation.

“We think we have an opportunity of raising debt, we also will be giving back to shareholders 100% of free cash flow,” Lores continued, “and as the [coronavirus] situation gets more stable, we will become more aggressive at buying shares back and returning capital to shareholders.”

HP dished out $400 million in share repurchases and dividends in its last quarter, according to a press release.

The comments came after the computer and printer manufacturer posted mixed quarterly results for the quarter ending April 30. The company printed a miss on the top line and a 6-cent beat on the bottom line, recording 51 cents of earnings per share, minus some items, on revenue of $12.47 billion.

Wall Street analysts were looking for 44 cents of earnings per share on $12.93 billion in revenue, according to Refinitiv. HP’s third-quarter guidance also fell below expectations.

The stock was down as much as 5% in the aftermarket.

In a quarter defined by a coronavirus-induced slowdown, HP saw sales fall 11% from the year-ago period. The commercial hardware, workstations, printing and desktops businesses took the biggest hits, according to FactSet.

Lores, who has led HP for more than three decades, pinned printer and personal computer softness on supply chain disruptions caused by state-sanctioned shutdowns to slow the spread of Covid-19, the deadly disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Factories in China reopened in mid-February, which impacted the two segments, he said.

“We saw some demand for home printers but we couldn’t ship because we had these supply chain issues,” he said.

Lores pointed out a bright spot in subscriptions, which grew 30% year over year during the quarter. The company counted a subscriber base of 6 million in February. That has since crossed the 7 million mark, he said.

“This is very important for us because this is how we want to drive the business going forward,” he said. “So it’s a significant support for the strategy that we have put in place.”

As for getting factories back online, Lores expressed a sense of optimism about the company’s future.

“The team has done a fantastic job getting the factories back to work and at the beginning of May we were almost at full capacity,” he said. “And I say almost because, given the corona environment, there could be always surprises from us, or from some of our suppliers, but we have really addressed the supply chain problems that we had.”

HP shares ticked up to $17.12 during Thursday’s session. The stock is down nearly 17% year to date.

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