ECONOMY

Dell, HP Say PC Surge to Continue Even in Return to School, Work

Dell Technologies Inc. and HP Inc. reported earnings buoyed by a resurgent personal computer demand they projected will continue even as people return to offices and schools when the coronavirus pandemic is under control.

The U.S. companies, two of the world’s top three PC makers, reported sales and profit in the three-months ending in January that topped analysts’ estimates. The overall market, which grew for the first time in almost a decade in 2020, will expand again this year helped by demand for laptops, according to HP Chief Executive Officer Enrique Lores.

PC makers are arguing that runaway demand for notebooks from consumers that snapped them up to enable work and study from home during the pandemic won’t evaporate as restrictions ease. The months-long lockdown for large chunks of the world’s population has accelerated the use of computers in everything from personal communication, to learning and gaming, they argue.

“We think that change is sustainable,” Lores said in an interview. “Covid has made technology more fundamental in all of our lives.”

HP executives tempered that optimism by predicting that consumer demand will “subside” as more people return to the kind of lives they led before the lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 virus. As that happens, companies and other organizations will return to spending on their in-house hardware, HP said.

Dell Chief Operating Officer Jeff Clarke told analysts the hardware maker sees an improving demand environment in 2021. Millions of school children still need laptops and companies will be reopening offices that are equipped with old PCs in need of replacement, he said.

“The PC is the hub of the new economic model,” Clarke said.

Dell, which shipped a record number of units in the quarter, said there are shortages of some types of chips such as those that power memory card readers and displays. Supply constraints of some components are also keeping a lid on growth. HP expects that sitution to continue until the third quarter. Still, its view of PC demand in 2021 is 45% higher than it was prior to the pandemic, Lores said, and suppliers simply haven’t been able to keep up with the surge.

Dell said sales rose 9% to $26.1 billion in the period that ended Jan. 29. That compares with an average analyst estimate of $24.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. HP reported revenue of $15.6 billion, more than $600 million higher than the average estimate.

Dell’s fiscal fourth-quarter revenue from consumer PCs jumped 19% and HP’s climbed 34%. PC sales to business and government agencies for Dell rose 16% to $9.9 billion. Commercial sales at HP contracted.

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