Compaq Cuts Outlook, Takes $500M Charge

Compaq Computer Corp. said on Monday it expects to report a third-quarter operating loss and lower-than-expected sales, as the No. 2 personal computer maker cited everything from a typhoon to the Sept. 11 air attacks for its expected shortfall.

The Houston, Texas-based company said it was hurt by the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as a typhoon that hit key suppliers in Taiwan. 

Also in September, the company announced plans to merge with competitor Hewlett-Packard Co. last month, which in itself caused both customers and employees to pause, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Clarke said in a conference call. 

"The challenges resulting from the above events were further underscored by the fact that they occurred in the last month of the quarter, during which we typically ship up to 50 percent of the quarter's revenue,'' he said. 

The company also said it would take a charge of $500 million related to its investment in Internet holding company CMGI Inc. 

Compaq said it expects revenue of $7.4 billion to $7.5 billion and an operating loss of 5 cents to 7 cents a share. 

Compaq Chief Executive Michael Capellas likened the quarter to "the perfect storm.'' 

"Obviously, we had overall weakness in the economy and truly brutal pricing, which was affecting the supply-and-demand side, but there was just an unbelievable effect in terms of lost productivity and almost chaos in the transportation system,'' Capellas said during a conference call. 

And for the fourth quarter, Capellas didn't offer much more hope. 

"Visibility is particularly tough as we look forward,'' he said. 

Analysts said that the company's shift to direct sales may have exacerbated the situation. Compaq has long been working to reduce the amount of inventory that sits with distributors and retailers. In this case, that may have made the supply chain disruption more important. 

"They have been moving toward just-in-time style of production, so I'm sure that led to the shortfall,'' Eric Rothdeutsch, an analyst at Robertson Stephens said, referring to a more direct sales model at Compaq. 

Analysts had expected revenues of $8.2 billion in the third quarter, according to Thomson Financial/First Call, after the company told them in July to expect revenues in a range of $8 billion to $8.4 billion. Analysts had also expected the company to post earnings of 5 cents a share in the quarter. 

Compaq, struggling with an aggressive price war started by competitor Dell Computer Corp., agreed to be bought by HP on Sept. 4 in a deal that has met with much skepticism on Wall Street. Since the deal was announced, its value fell from $25 billion to less than $17 billion.