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拯救惠普任重道远,梅格唯有祈求好运

Kevin Kelleher 2011年10月17日

梅格•惠特曼在eBay的成功经历或许让人觉得她有能力率领惠普扭转颓势。但是,多数IT公司即便能够扭转经营上的颓势,往往也需要数年时间。这一回,惠特曼前方的路很可能会格外艰难。

    多数身经百战的企业高管都经历过职业生涯的起起落落。今天我们就来说说梅格•惠特曼。

    惠特曼带领eBay一路从默默无闻的初创公司成长为身价高达750亿美元的电子商务巨人;然而,同样是在她任职期间,这家公司的经营业绩大幅下滑,市值损失了300亿美元。之后,她加盟高盛公司(Goldman Sachs),但收到高盛支付的首次公开募股股票之后火速离职。后来,她曾斥资1.44亿美元用于州长竞选,但最后不得不承认:“我们功亏一篑。”

    今年1月,她重出江湖,出任惠普公司(HP)董事。而惠普董事会如今已成为硅谷史上最具争议的一个董事会。正是这个董事会绕开了提名议程,任命惠特曼为惠普首席执行官。尽管有人质疑她是否是惠普掌门人的最佳人选,但或许问题的实质在于:惠普到底能否重振河山?惠特曼是不是注定会失败,因为扭转惠普的颓势不过是项费力不讨好的工作?

    迄今为止,惠特曼采取的一系列举措堪称正确:她跟史蒂夫•乔布斯一样,年薪只有1美元。当然,她手中握有大量期权。她承诺,本月内会解决惠普面临的最重大、最紧迫的问题:是否出售PC业务。此外,她还雇佣了一家投资银行,防止激进的投资者要求惠普申请破产。(没错,这家银行自然是高盛。)

    惠普宣布惠特曼即将担任公司首席执行官之后,公司股票在三周内上涨了10%;但是,与8个多月前相比,仍然跌去了近50%。目前尚无法判断惠普股价上涨仅仅是大跌之后的技术性反弹,还是因为投资者们已认识到,事实上惠普股票已在以低价进行交易:仅为其收入的5倍【标准普尔(S&P)指数为14】,是其年销售额的39%。

    但是,分析人士和投资人士称,惠普前方的路相当坎坷。“惠普现在就是个巨大的乱摊子,”对冲基金投资家比尔•艾克曼称。他最近刚造访过惠普工业园。“走在那儿的感觉真是令人沮丧。”

    摩根大通公司(JPMorgan)的分析师马克•莫斯科维兹前不久表示,他预计,惠普的营业额和收入增长会继续落后于竞争对手。他还称,也许惠普确实被低估了,但是由于该公司收入“长期呈下降趋势”,因此惠普的股票仍然无甚魅力可言。此外,他还指出,尽管大型IT公司扭转颓势并非不可能,但那是个缓慢而痛苦的过程。“迄今鲜有大型IT公司高调宣布扭转经营颓势,且在短期内实现目标的先例。就我们所知,只有两家公司成功扭转过颓势,那就是国际商业机器公司(IBM)和苹果公司(Apple)。但它们都花了五年多的时间,才见到曙光。惠普的改革才刚刚进行了两年,无疑未来的路仍旧不会平坦。”

    其他分析师也持有相同看法。花旗集团(Citigroup)的里查德•加德纳将其对惠普股价的估价从45美元/股降到了28美元/股,他指出,原因不仅在于该公司服务器业务营业收入下降,而且其平板电脑业务侵蚀了自身的PC业务。但是,巴克莱资本公司(Barclays)的本•雷兹指出:“惠普的软件和服务业务尚未优化到一定程度,目前还离不开PC业务。”因此,尽管PC业务已是惠普肩上的一个大包袱,但离了这个包袱,它又活不成。

    除了卖掉PC业务外,惠特曼(或者任何其他人)似乎都没有办法能够让惠普在未来一年左右重新实现收入的增长。诚然,惠普可以进军云计算领域。但惠特曼的前任李艾科在其11个月的任期内有几大动作,其中之一便是云计算。他发起的另一项运动是建立TouchPad平板电脑业务,但销量乏善可陈。话说回来,除了苹果之外,又有哪家公司的平板电脑销售一片欣欣向荣呢?

    作为惠普董事会的一名新成员,惠特曼有董事会撑腰,而且她很可能会照其旨意行事。但是,惠普董事会管理危机的能力糟糕透顶。惠普与雅虎公司(Yahoo)一样,都在高调寻求转型,前者为此先后聘任又解雇了多名经验丰富的首席执行官。六年间,惠普解雇了3名首席执行官,这些人曾经执掌过朗讯公司(Lucent)、NCR公司、以及思爱普公司(SAP)。现在,轮到了eBay的前任领导人。目前,惠普股票的交易价格仍然与其15年前持平。换言之,惠特曼眼下应该好好享受荣升惠普首席执行官的短暂喜悦,因为接下来的日子很可能任重而道远。

    译者:红权

    Most seasoned executives have their share of career ups and downs. And then there's Meg Whitman.

    Whitman presided over eBay's rise from a scrappy startup to an e-commerce giant worth $75 billion -- then presided over a decline that struck $30 billion out of that market cap. She joined Goldman Sachs (GS) board, but soon resigned after receiving shares of IPOs Goldman underwrote. She spent $144 million in a gubernatorial campaign, only to finally admit, "We've come up a little short."

    In January, she resurfaced as a new director of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), joining a board that has become one of the most questioned in the history of Silicon Valley. That same board circumvented its nomination process to name her as HP's CEO. While some question whether she is the right leader for HP now, the real question may be can HP be fixed at all? Is Whitman setting herself up for failure simply because turning HP around may be a thankless task?

    So far, Whitman seems to be making the right initial moves. She took a Steve Jobs-like annual salary of $1. (Plus lots of options.) She vowed to address this month the biggest immediate question facing the company: whether to sell off the PC business. She hired an investment bank to defend itself any activist investors who may demand the company be broken up. (That bank was, yes, Goldman Sachs.)

    In the three weeks since HP announced Whitman would become CEO, its stock has risen 10%. But it's still down nearly 50% in a little more than 8 months. It's too early to say whether HP is rising because of the kind of technical bounce that follows a precipitous drop, or because investors have recognized it's trading at bargain-basement levels: Five times its earnings (the S&P's ratio is 14) and 0.39 its annual sales.

    To listen to analysts and investors, though, the road ahead for HP is a rough one. "It's a big, complicated mess," said hedge fund investors Bill Ackman, who had recently visited the HP campus. "It was depressing walking around there."

    Mark Moskowitz, an analyst at JPMorgan (JPM) said last week he expects HP to continue to underperform its peers in revenue and earnings growth. Moskowitz said HP may be cheaply valued, but is still unattractive because of the "chronic downside" of its earnings potential. Furthermore, he notes, when big-tech turnarounds do work, they are slow and painful. "There are few examples of value stories in large cap technology where high-profile turnarounds both worked and occurred in short order. We can name only two that worked, IBM (IBM) and Apple (AAPL), but both of those took more than five years to achieve positive outcomes. HP is just entering year two, implying more pain ahead."

    Others seem to agree. Citigroup's (C) Richard Gardner, cutting his price target from $45 to $28, pointed to declines in server revenue and tablet cannibalization of HP's personal computers. But as Barclays (BCS) Ben Reitzes pointed out, "the software and services businesses have not yet been optimized to a point where the company can live without PCs." So PCs are HP's albatross, but an albatross it needs around its neck.

    Beyond a sale of the PC business, it seems there's little Whitman -- or anyone -- can do to revive earnings growth in the next year or so. HP can help companies get into cloud computing, but that was one of Léo Apotheker's big initiatives during the 11-month tenure that led to his firing. Another campaign was the TouchPad tablet, which saw disappointing sales. Then again, which company not named Apple has seen tablet sales that didn't disappoint?

    As a recent board member, Whitman has the support of the board and is likely to act on its ideas. But HP's board is one with poor instincts in managing crises. It's a high-profile tech turnaround attempt, like Yahoo (YHOO), that chews up and spits out experienced CEOs. In six years, the company has fired three CEOs -- with experience leading Lucent, NCR Corp. (NCR) and SAP (SAP) -- and now it's hired one who once led eBay (EBAY). And the stock is still trading at the same price as it did 15 years ago. In other words, Whitman should enjoy her ascendancy to the CEO's desk. What comes next is likely to be much harder.

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