HP cuts 30,000 jobs

Mike Lynch, founder of Autonomy, exits.

New Statesman
Meg Whitman, HP CEO and former Republican California gubernatorial candidate. Photograph: Getty Images

The PC manufacturer Hewlett-Packard is to cut almost 30,000 jobs, the company has announced, in one of the biggest mass lay-offs in the last decade. The decision to cut over 10 per cent of its workforce was made as part of a cost-cutting exercise at the troubled company.

The move, letting go of 27,000 employees, is just one part of recently appointed CEO Meg Whitman's plan to restore HP to greatness. Unlike many of its competitors, it remains active in a number of different markets, including enterprise and consumer PCs, internet services, calculators, networking accessories and monitors. In most of its major markets, however, it has seen its position erode, facing major competition on both cost and quality.

In addition, the company has suffered a number of high-profile missteps recently. Its purchase of once-great PDA manufacturer Palm should have earned it a foothold in the smartphone and tablet markets, but instead it announced that it was cancelling the WebOS product line which it inherited. Once it began selling off surplus stock of the already-manufactured TouchPad tablet at bargain-basement prices, though, it was shocked by the demand, and backtracked on its decision to leave the sector.

Similarly, Whitman's predecessor, Léo Apotheker, made a game-changing announcement that HP would exist the consumer PC market entirely, before he was sacked by shareholders and that decision reversed. And before Apotheker came Mark Hurd, forced out in 2010 following an investigation into alleged sexual harrassment.

Of the employees losing their jobs in the coming months, an immediate high-profile victim is Mike Lynch, the founder of Autonomy, the British search company acquired by HP for $10bn by Apotheker last year. Whitman told a conference call that Autonomy had suffered “very disappointing” licensing revenues, but overall HP actually beat expectations, with earnings per share at 98 cents on revenues of $30.7bn – although that was still down 3 per cent year-on-year.

The news that HP is finally acting to fix its problems seems to have helped push HP shares up – in extended trading last night they were 9.1 per cent higher at $23.