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Hewlett-Packard stock hits 6-year low on Whitman's first full day

September 23, 2011 |  2:53 pm

Whitman

Hewlett-Packard Co. investors have greeted the company's new chief executive with the Wall Street equivalent of a stocking full of coal. On her first full day as chief executive, the company's stock hit a 6-year low.

The dip, which hit the lowest price since May 2005, reflected investors' continued doubts about Whitman's fitness to run the global computing giant.  The stock later rebounded somewhat to close down 2.11%, or $0.48, to $22.32.

In a conference call Thursday with Whitman and HP board chairman Raymond J. Lane, investors repeatedly asked if HP's board had hired Whitman too hastily. 

He insisted that HP had considered all of its options, and that Whitman was the best.

But those concerns came up again in a TV interview on Friday, in which a CNBC anchor asked Lane if Whitman's experience as the chief executive of EBay Inc., a Web company, qualified her to head a company that makes computers.

"Ronald Reagan was an actor," Lane replied. "He was a pretty good president. OK?"

Whitman replaced former Chief Executive Leo Apotheker after an 11-month tenure that culminated in the announcement of major changes to HP -- including the potential spinoff of its huge PC business, and the $10 billion purchase of Autonomy Corp., a British business software-maker. 

But those decisions turned out to be the board's strategy, not Apotheker's. So investors have wondered, will Whitman continue on the same path, or try to move the company toward her own vision?

"From what I know now, from where I sit, these seem like smart decisions," Whitman said in the TV interview. "I'm not just taking the playbook and, you know, turning to chapter one, line seven. But I feel comfortable with the strategic direction of the company."

RELATED:

Whitman in, Apotheker out

HP investors like idea of Apotheker's ouster

Excerpts from Whitman's first talk with investors

-- David Sarno

Photo: Whitman in 2010. Credit: Jose Luis Villegas / Reuters.

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