Tuesday, March 29, 2005

HP's Hurd instinct

HP’s decision to hire NCR CEO Mark Hurd strikes me as an odd one. It is easy to explain to the public that HP hopes Hurd can do to HP stock what he did for NCR’s. But it may be a big stretch to assume that this is possible because the NCR veteran will have a tough time being accepted in the insular HP culture and managing a much more complex company.

On the plus side NCR’s stock price has done phenomenally well since this 25-year company veteran took over as CEO in February 2003 – up 300% before today’s announcement which whacked 14% off the stock. During Hurd’s CEO tenure, NCR sales grew 10% while net income increased 5-fold on cost cuts.

But NCR is much smaller than HP and its primary business is selling ATMs to banks whereas HP sells to many kinds of businesses and consumers. Specifically, NCR had revenue of nearly $6 billion in 2004 and 28,500 employees while HP has $80 billion in revenues and 150,000 people.

HP has a very strong culture and it would be a mistake to assume that Hurd who spent most of his career at NCR will be accepted at HP fast enough to make the kinds of changes needed to satisfy impatient HP shareholders.


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