Whose Earnings Will Be Worse? Dell vs. H-P (DELL, HPQ, AAPL, INTC, AMD, MSFT)

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This week is going to be an earnings bonanza for investors who care about makers of personal computers.  While Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is all of the rage, we have Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) reporting earnings after the close of trading on Tuesday and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) reporting after the close of trading on Wednesday.

There are several issues happening almost simultaneously here.  Intel Corporation (NASDAQ: INTC) recently reiterated its guidance and this lends more thought to the PC recovery being sustained.  Even Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD) signaled that it sees increased demand for PCs and its processors ahead.  The reason is in part due to the Windows refresh cycle as Microsoft Corporation is now just a few months away from its launch of the Windows 8 operating system.

Our big question is simple, yet complicated: How bad will the reports be from Dell and H-P?

Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) is in a turnaround and Wall Street refuses to give it any valuation worth noting.  Its value is about 6-times expected earnings.  The chatter has already been telegraphed that some 25,000 or even 30,000 pink slips are going to be handed out at H-P.  That will make its earnings coincide with National Employee Morale Day.  H-P is a DJIA component and it is worth under $44 billion in market capitalization now that its stock is down more than half from the peak in early 2011.  H-P still trades under $22 and its 52-week range is $21.28 to $37.70 against a consensus analyst price target objective of $29.23 that implies about 33% upside.  Thomson Reuters has consensus estimates of $0.91 EPS and $29.92 billion in revenue for H-P.

Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL) is dirt cheap for a tech stock and dirt cheap compared to the market, but against H-P it almost sounds expensive at 7.5-times its forward earnings.  Dell is still just under $15 and its 52-week range is $13.29 to $18.36 against a consensus analyst price target objective of $19.43 that implies 30% upside.  Thomson Reuters has consensus estimates of $0.46 EPS and $14.89 billion in revenue for Dell.

Analysts still seem to prefer Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) over Dell and H-P alike if you just pay attention to the media coverage.  What is interesting is that Apple has almost no attention given to its Mac sales at the moment.  It is all about iPads, iPhones, and the coming Apple TV.  Apple shares are finally recovering with a gain of 4% to $551.00 today.  Analysts have a consensus target of $708.55 against the $551 price today.  What is interesting is that Apple’s implied upside is about 28%.

Can it be that analysts actually prefer Dell and H-P over Apple as a group?  That is what the math says on the surface.  The difference is that many of the analysts following Apple are far higher and much more ambitious on Apple than the consensus.

JON C. OGG