May 8, 2007 6:29 pm

Leak prompts HP to issue early guidance

Leaked financial figures on Tuesday forced Hewlett-Packard, the world’s biggest computer company, to pre-empt its quarterly earnings announcement and disclose better-than-expected second-quarter results.

HP issued updated guidance after an employee accidentally leaked financial information “through an internal e-mail sent on Monday evening to a single outside party.”

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HP stressed that the disclosure was accidental, and said it had acted swiftly to issue an update before the start of trading.

“This was the result of a plain old-fashioned human error,” HP said.

Leaks of sensitive financial information in the run-up to a company’s earnings report are unusual, and could add to concerns about HP’s internal controls in the wake of its boardroom spying scandal last year.

HP said it “could not recall a similar error happening in recent memory”, It had informed the US Securities and Exchange Commission of the error.

The company’s stock price rose 2 per cent on Tuesday to $44.68 after it said it expected to take in $25.5bn in sales in the second quarter. That was $1bn more than its estimate.

HP now expects net earnings of 64-65 cents a share in the period, ahead of its original forecast of 57-58 cents a share. For the third quarter, HP said it expected earnings of 59 to 61 cents a share, on sales of $23.7bn-$23.9bn.

Mark Hurd, HP’s chairman chief executive, has vowed to stop leaks of confidential company information.

Revelations that HP investigators posed as journalists and board members to gain access to their private telephone records led to the ouster of Patricia Dunn, HP’s former chairman, and other company officials.

Shares in the company have more than doubled since Mr Hurd took over as CEO in 2005.

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