HP’s latest weapon for backing off Xerox: A $15 billion stock buyback

HP Inc.’s new plan to thwart copy machine specialist Xerox’s hostile plans to buy the company involves returning more than $15 billion to HP shareholders over the next three years.

The personal computer and printing giant detailed its new capital return program on Monday under the backdrop of the company’s fiscal first quarter earnings for 2020. As part of the capital return program, HP plans $15 billion in share buybacks, up $10 billion from the $5 billion share repurchase authorization program the company announced in fall. 

HP shares were up 5.8% to $23.38 in after-hours trading, indicating that investors were pleased with the revised share buyback plans.

The announcement comes amid a challenging time for HP, which is attempting to fend off a potential acquisition from Xerox, while simultaneously dealing with a shrinking printing and PC market. Sales in HP’s latest quarter declined nearly 1% to $14.62 billion, which beat analyst expectations of $14.59 billion. HP’s personal systems business, which includes PCs, was up 2% year-over-year to $9.9 billion in its latest quarter, while its printing business declined 7% year-over-year to $4.7 billion.

Ever since Xerox detailed plans to buy HP in November, the printer company has publicly rebuffed its suitors various proposals, including raising its acquisition offer in February from $22 to $24 a share. 

HP CEO Enrique Lores told analysts Monday that Xerox’s proposed acquisition significantly undervalues HP, and the financial plan outlined by HP executives is a better deal for its investors.

But Lores also revealed that HP is still open to a potential combination with Xerox, just not the specific acquisition that Xerox is looking for. Lores told analysts that HP is still talking with Xerox about a potential combination, and will disclose more information about those meetings in public filings.

Lores said that before any possible deal between HP and Xerox occurs, both companies must make sure “there is a fair and clear assessment of the synergies” between the two firms and that they are valued accordingly. “This is important,” he added. 

Some analysts on the call were concerned that HP’s new financial plans could limit the company’s ability to buy other companies. But Lores said the company will still have enough cash to buy firms that could aid in its research and development.

HP executives also elaborated on its cost-reduction program it announced in October, which would help save the company roughly $1 billion by 2022 by firing between 7,000 to 9,000 workers, among other measures. 

Lores said that HP has been reducing its number of call centers and is “driving down real estate costs” by “reducing the number of locations” it maintains. 

“Reducing costs is a never-ending task,” he said.

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