HP’s Next Task: Triple Palm’s Revenue
With its acquisition of Palm, Hewlett-Packard gains a turnkey smartphone division–a venture with a slick smartphone operating system, deep mobile patent portfolio, talented R&D team, the beginnings of an app ecosystem and established carrier relationships. Not bad for the $1.2 billion HP paid for it, though the true cost of the acquisition is likely to run quite a bit higher, according to Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore.
In a research note to clients this week, Whitmore argues that HP (HPQ) needs to work some serious financial magic on Palm (PALM) in order to make it EPS-neutral in 2011. Specifically, the company needs to triple revenue to $1.2 billion and double gross margins to 44 percent while keeping operating expenses flat.
“By all measures, this appears to be a Herculean task given the declining momentum behind WebOS among consumers & developers,” Whitmore writes. “While we do see merit in HP’s strategy to extend WebOS beyond the smartphone market into slates/tablets/etc, the investment required to tap this opportunity may be larger than expected….”
As Whitmore notes, “In reviewing Palm’s financials, Palm spends ~$500M annually in Opex (R&D and sales and marketing) to support the WebOS platform. Given the severe loss of market momentum behind WebOS, we believe it is reasonable to assume that HP will need to grow this investment by 50-100%, to approximately $750 million-$1.0 billion.”
Obviously, a significant investment. That said, HP has so far given every indication that it’s willing to make it. As HP exec Jim Burns emphasized during a conference call last week, the company plans to pump quite a bit of money into Palm.
“We’re going to increase [spending on webOS],” Burns said. “And we’re going to increase sales and marketing as well. We’re going to take this platform, which today exists for smartphones only, and make it much broader than that….We are going to be investing heavily in this business in the next year.”