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Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) Upgraded To 'Neutral' By UBS On Free Cash Flow

 February 22, 2013 02:11 PM

(By Balachander) Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) shares were upgraded to "Neutral" from "Sell" by UBS with a price target of $19 per share.

Although the fundamentals remain mixed, the substantial improvement in free cash flow reduces the likelihood of significant downside to the stock, UBS wrote in a note.

The brokerage said free cash flow of $2.1 billion in F1Q suggests the $5 billion guidance for the year will likely prove low, so HP can achieve zero net debt in F2014 and then potentially return more cash to shareholders.

UBS said HP's F1Q was better than the company and it expected at revenue of $28.4 billion vs UBS' $27.5 billion estimate and non-GAAP EPS of $0.82 vs UBS' $0.68.

[Related -Should You Buy HP's Stellar Rebound?]

Hewlett-Packard, widely known as HP, forecasts non-GAAP EPS in the range of $0.80 to $0.82 for the second quarter.

"The upside primarily came in revenue and gross margin. Although a number of businesses remain under pressure, the company's blocking and tackling is improving, and the likelihood of the bottom falling out appears diminished," UBS said.

Execution improving but many businesses losing share, UBS said and added that printer margins are holding up with ASPs up as low-end printers are de-emphasized.

"Still, HP is not out of the woods with PC pain expected to continue, server sales in Europe under pressure, software underperforming, and service revenue declines worsening in coming quarters," the brokerage said.

Palo Alto, California-based H-P, a Dow component, is the world's largest seller of personal computers.

[Related -Sector Detector: Is There Still Enough Fuel In The Bulls’ Tank?]

On Friday, HPQ shares rallied 15.73 percent to trade at $19.78. Over the past year, the stock has been trading between $11.35 and $27.87.

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