HP says acquired company lied about finances

Associated Press Modified: November 20, 2012 at 10:30 am •  Published: November 20, 2012
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Whitman answered that the two executives that should have been held responsible — Apotheker and strategy chief Shane Robinson — are gone. But the deal was also approved, essentially, by the current board.

"Most of the board was here and voted for this deal, and we feel terribly about that," Whitman said. "What I will say is that the board relied on audited financials. Audited by Deloitte — not 'Brand X' accounting firm, but Deloitte. During our very extensive due diligence process, we hired KPMG to audit Deloitte. And neither of them saw what we now see after someone came forward to point us in the right direction."

Apotheker told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he was "stunned and disappointed" to learn of the allegations against Autonomy, and pointed out that they had gone undiscovered by HP's auditors, executives and directors.

Efforts to reach Deloitte and Lynch for comment were not immediately successful.

Whitman said she still views Autonomy as a "growth engine for HP software," albeit a weaker one than initially thought.

HP shares traded down $1.74, or 13 percent, at $11.56 in morning trading. Just after the open, they hit $11.35, the lowest level since 2002.

HP's net loss for the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Oct. 31, amounted to $6.85 billion, or $3.49 per share. That compares with net income of $239 million, or 12 cents per share, in the same period last year.

It was the second mammoth loss in a row for HP. In the third fiscal quarter, it lost a record $8.86 billion, or $4.49 per share. That was due to a charge for another acquisition — that of Electronic Data Systems, a technology consulting service that it bought for $13 billion in 2009. In that case, HP didn't blame improper accounting, just results that didn't live up to expectations.

Excluding the charges in the latest quarter, HP earned $1.16 per share in the latest quarter, just above the average analyst forecast of $1.14 per share, as polled by FactSet.

HP's revenue was $30.0 billion, down 7 percent from last year. That was below analyst expectations at $30.5 billion.

The Palo Alto, Calif., company stuck to its previously given earnings forecast for the fiscal year that just started, but it issued a forecast for this quarter that was well below analyst expectations. It expects earnings, excluding items, to be 68 cents to 71 cents per share, while analysts were looking for 85 cents, according to FactSet.