Logo

Image source: The Motley Fool.

HP inc (NYSE: HPQ)
Q3 2021 Earnings Call
Aug 26, 2021, 4:30 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good afternoon and welcome to the HP Inc. Third Quarter 2021 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions]

I would now like to turn the conference over to Beth Howe, Head of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

10 stocks we like better than HP
When our award-winning analyst team has a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.*

They just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and HP wasnt one of them! Thats right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

See the 10 stocks

*Stock Advisor returns as of August 9, 2021

Beth Howe -- Vice President and Head of Investor Relations

Good afternoon, everyone and welcome to HPs third quarter 2021 earnings conference call. With me today are Enrique Lores, HPs President and Chief Executive Officer; and Marie Myers, HPs Chief Financial Officer. Before handing the call over to Enrique, let me remind you that this call is being webcast. A replay of this webcast will be made available on our website shortly after the call for approximately one year. We posted the earnings release and the accompanying slide presentation on our Investor Relations webpage at investor.hp.com. As always, elements of this presentation are forward-looking and are based on our best view of the world and our businesses as we see them today.

For more detailed information, please see disclaimers in the earnings materials related to forward-looking statements that involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. For a discussion of some of these risks, uncertainties and assumptions, please refer to HPs SEC reports including our most recent Form 10-K. HP assumes no obligation and does not intend to update any such forward-looking statements. We also note that the financial information discussed on this call reflects estimates based on information available now and could differ materially from the amounts ultimately reported in HPs Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended July 31, 2021 and HPs other SEC filings.

During this webcast, unless otherwise specifically noted, all comparisons are year-over-year comparisons with the corresponding year-ago period. For financial information that has been expressed on a non-GAAP basis, weve included reconciliations to the comparable GAAP information. Please refer to the tables and slide presentation accompanying todays earnings release for those reconciliations.

With that, Id like to turn the call over to Enrique.

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Beth. Good afternoon, everyone and thank you for joining the call. I hope that you and your families are safe and well. Its an important time for us to connect. The hybrid world taking shape is expanding our addressable market and create new opportunities to drive profitable growth. We have already started to capitalize on this, and have a long runway ahead. This is evident in our Q3 performance. We delivered another quarter of top and bottom line growth with EPS growing substantially faster than revenue. This reflects continued progress against our strategic priorities and strong and sustained demand for our products and services. In Q3, we delivered revenue of $15.3 billion, an increase of 7%. Our non-GAAP net earnings increased 71% to $1.2 billion. Non-GAAP EPS increased to $1 compared to $0.49 in Q3 last year, and we generated $1 billion of free cash flow, returning $1.7 billion to shareholders.

Before I take you through the highlights, I want to first share three key points of context, as you think about our performance and outlook. First, as I mentioned, we continue to see strong demand for our products and services. The hybrid world is accelerating trends in our segments and our leadership across commercial and consumer categories positions as well even as demand continues to outpace supply.

The second point is that we continue to ship as much product as we can, while navigating a complex operational environment. We are managing through component shortages. COVID-related factory lockdowns in Southeast Asia and congested ports and transportation disruptions. Even under these conditions, we delivered solid financial results.

And third, we are performing while transforming our business models and service offerings to capitalize on emerging growth opportunities. We have continued to make progress reducing our fixed cost structure evolving our business model and creating new growth businesses. And we are expanding our time in key segment to drive additional top and bottom line growth. In Personal Systems, it will be driven by our focus on peripherals and new compute models. In printing, we are expanding our services and subscription offerings. I will talk about all of these in more detail by looking at the progress were making across our portfolio.

In Personal Systems, demand for our products continue to be strong with our backlog increasing again quarter-on-quarter. PC penetration rates are growing across our markets, our devices become increasingly essential in todays hybrid world. While we delivered strong operating profit, PS revenue was less and we expected primarily because of our supply chain constraints. We expect industrywide supply shortages, particularly in ICs to continue into 2022. Even this, we have identified the necessary improvements we need to make and are accelerating their execution to drive stronger top line performance. We expect that it will take more than one quarter to show results. As we then supply our peers portfolio is extremely well-positioned for the hybrid world, and we see significant opportunities for market expansion. And our leading share in Commercial PCs positions us well as more businesses reopen.

In the Commercial market, we launched our new all-in-one and expanded our ZBook portfolio of high performance PCs for creative professionals. This includes the ZBook Studio G8, the worlds most powerful mobile workstation of its size. And our new ZBook Power brings ZBook performance to students SMB and the public sector. In Q3, we also launched our new Pavilion lineup that brings premium computing experiences into the mainstream. We will note a series of new displays that are purpose-built for home office and entertaining setups. And we continued to drive momentum outside of our core hardware businesses.

This quarter, we completed our acquisition of HyperX, giving us a leading position in gaming peripheral, and a platform from which to accelerate our peripheral leadership more broadly. We also continue to advance our device as a service business, which grew 32% in the quarter. And we are investing to meet emerging customers needs in the commercial space. This is highlighted by our recent agreement to acquire Teradici Corporation. Teradici software is widely used by leading organizations around the world to deliver superior remote computing solutions. We expect this deal will accelerate new compute models and services tailored for hybrid work environment.

In Printing, revenue was up 24%, driven by a recovery in Commercial and strength in Consumers. But in Personal Systems, the rise of bot in hybrid place always things and is creating new opportunities for print innovation and growth. Specifically, we are expanding our services and subscription offerings, each of which deliver double digit growth this quarter. We continue to scale HP Plus an Instant Ink across North America and Europe, including the addition of HP plus on the LV and digit product family. We have seen positive response to HP Plus today, and HPs Instant Ink hit a major milestone by surprising 10 million subscribers. Our subscription services are providing a simple and seamless experience for todays hybrid workers paving the way for new offerings in the future.

We also continued to evolve our hardware portfolio with success in our award-winning HP Laserjet 400 and 500 series. HP continues to be recognized as a best managed print vendor, helping F&B solution providers thrive in a competitive market, where quality and security are essential. Those things of our position in the commercial market is significant as more people return to the office.

In our Industrial businesses, we drove very strong hardware revenue growth in the quarter. Importantly, our number of pages printed is at or above 2019 levels. We once again saw double digit growth in print impressions and square meters, as well as things in key categories like labels and packaging. And in 3D, we remain focused on driving high-value end-to-end applications in strategic vertical markets.

This quarter, we launched the new arise or fertic solution. It leverages HP 3D printing and cloud-based software to help the millions of patients who suffer from foot pain. It is a great example of the opportunity we see to develop industries with highly personalized solutions. Our combination of innovation and execution enables us to continue making progress across our business and portfolio. And we remain committed to generating strong cash flow and to value-creating capital allocation. This includes our robust share repurchase and dividend program and disciplined organic and inorganic investments.

In Q3, we returned $1.7 billion to shareholders, and have returned $6.8 billion over the past 12 months. We believe, our shares remain under value and are committed to aggressive repurchase levels of at least $1.5 billion in Q4. As part of our value creation strategy, we also remain focused on M&A, that can accelerate our growth in strategic areas. HyperX and Teradici are two great examples. We will continue to use in our liberals, returns based framework to evaluate and pursue deals that complement our strategy and accelerate new sources of value creation.

As we drive our portfolio strategy and transformation agenda, we continue to prioritize making a sustainable impact. This quarter will release our 20th Annual Sustainable Impact Report, that highlights the work we are doing in climate action, human rights on digital equity and outlined new 2030 goals. Not only it is the right thing to do, its also driving business success. In 2020, our sustainable impact initiatives help us win more than $1 billion in new sales for the second consecutive year. Aligned with this, we recently issued $1 billion in Sustainability Bond. We are allocating these profits to ESG [Phonetic] related initiatives consistent with our strategy and values.

Looking ahead to Q4, our backlog remains significantly elevated. We expect robust demand to continue and we are taking decisive steps to address operational headwinds. Our portfolio is strong and resilient, and we remain on track to significantly exceed the full year EPS target we set in February. And today, we are raising our Q4 outlook. And more importantly, we plan to build on this performance and expect to grow full year EPS in fiscal year 22. Longer term, the hybrid world placed our strengths and creates attractive opportunities across our categories. We are well positioned to drive sustained performance, by the way innovate, improve and continue to reinvent for our customers, partners and shareholders. I look forward to our upcoming October Analyst Meeting to discuss our strategy and our plans to drive continued business success.

Let me now turn the call over to Marie, who will take you through the details of the quarter and our fiscal year outlook. Marie, over to you.

Marie Myers -- Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Enrique. Looking at our third quarter financial results, we delivered another solid quarter of revenue growth with operating profit and EPS growing substantially faster. We are continuing our transformation journey, while generating strong free cash flow returning significant capital to shareholders and investing for long-term value creation.

Looking at the details of Q3, net revenue was $15.3 billion, up 7% nominally, and 4% in constant currency. Regionally, in constant currency, Americas increased 12%, EMEA increased 1%, and APJ declined 6%. Supply chain constraints affected both print and Personal Systems revenue. And this was particularly impactful in EMEA and APJ in Personal Systems. Across Personal Systems and Print, we continue to see strong demand for our products and solutions. Capitalizing on opportunities, we see as the hybrid world takes shape.

The gross margin was 22.2%, up 5.5 points year-on-year. The increase was primarily driven by continued favorable pricing, including lower promotions as well as a reduction to previously estimated sales and marketing program incentives as well as currency, partially offset by higher costs. Non-GAAP operating expenses were $1.9 billion, or 12.4% of revenue. The increase in operating expenses was primarily driven by increased investments in go-to-market and innovation, as well as higher variable compensation due to the very strong performance this fiscal year as compared to 2020.

Non-GAAP net OI&E expense was $78 million for the quarter. Non-GAAP diluted net earnings per share increased $0.51 to $1, including $0.25 related to the reduction in previously estimated incentives of which $0.12 were reinvested during the quarter, primarily an accelerating R&D incremental marketing and a hybrid work strategy. Non-GAAP diluted net earnings per share excludes net expense totaling $19 million, primarily related to restructuring and other charges, amortization of intangibles, acquisition-related charges, debt extinguishment costs, other tax adjustments, partially offset by non-operating retirement-related credits. As a result, Q3 GAAP diluted net earnings per share was $0.92.

Before I get into the details of the segments, let me briefly address the reduction in previously estimated sales and marketing program incentives. Consistent with our policies, we review these estimates every quarter. We estimate incentives based on a number of factors like historical experience, customer behavior and market conditions. The change in estimate is a result of lower-than-expected incentives due to increased supply constraints, shifts in customer behavior and the evolving impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, it became clear that we had to make it unusually large change in estimate in Q3.

Now let me turn to segment performance. In Q3, Personal Systems revenue was $10.4 billion flat year-over-year as supply chain challenges continue to constrain our growth. Demand for our products remain strong with backlog increasing again sequentially, despite substantially clearing the current backlog. Drilling into the details. Consumer and Commercial revenue was up 3%, and down 1%, respectively. By product category, revenue was flat for notebooks, up 1% for desktops, and down 9% for workstations. Total units were flat year-over-year. We also drove double digit growth in both consumer peripherals and services attach across consumer and commercial.

Personal Systems delivered $869 million in operating profit and operating margins of 8.4%. The operating margin improved 2.9 points, primarily due to favorable pricing, including the reduction in estimated incentive and currency partially offset by higher costs including commodity cost, investments in innovation, in go-to market and variable compensation.

In Print, our results reflected continued focus on execution and the strength of our portfolio. We are uniquely positioned as leaders in both consumer and commercial and have the hardware supplies and services to deliver value in a hybrid world. Q3 total print revenue was $4.9 billion, up 24% driven by strong growth in support, hardware and services. Total hardware units declined 4%, due to manufacturing and component constraints primarily in consumer printers. We expect these Q3 constraints to impact Q4 as well.

Our customer segment consumer revenue was up 15%, with units down 8%, and commercial revenue and units were up 46% and 29%, respectively. Consumer demand remains strong. However, revenue particularly A4 laser was constrained by supply and factory disruptions. The commercial recovery continued with a double digit hardware revenue growth in office and triple digit increases in Industrial printing hardware. Given what were seeing with the Delta variant and evolving hybrid models, we still expect the recovery to be gradual and uneven at times across segments and geographies.

Supplies revenue was $3.1 billion, the 20% year-on-year growth was driven by inventory replenishment, stronger commercial demand and favorable pricing. Our contractual business is a key element of our print strategy in both consumer and commercial printing. In consumer, our Instant Ink business model continue to resonate well with customers with strong double digit revenue and subscriber growth. On the commercial side, we drove growth in managed print services revenue and total contract value with particular strength in new TCP bookings. Print operating profit increased $377 million to $857 million and operating margins were 17.6%. Operating margin grew 5.4 points driven primarily by favorable pricing, including the reduction in estimated incentives, higher volumes in commercial hardware, including graphics and 3D partially offset by unfavorable mix and higher costs, including commodity costs, investments in innovation and go-to market and variable compensation.

Let me now turn to our transformation efforts and our cost savings initiatives. In the second year of our program, we continue to look at new cost savings opportunities and remain ahead of our $1.2 billion gross run rate structural cost reduction plan. Our hybrid work strategy is one example. It has enabled us to accelerate a location strategy while providing a more flexible workspace. Going forward, we are enabling HPs hybrid work strategy by monetizing our sites to be critical hubs for collaboration and innovation. This will also deliver savings in our real estate portfolio.

In addition to our progress on our location strategy, we are making progress in our digital transformation. We are enhancing and leveraging our digital capabilities to transform the ways we operate and deliver value to our customers. In the third quarter, we completed the initial deployment over SAP S4 Hana system, one of the largest ERP implementations. Also as part of our end-to-end business planning and forecasting efforts, we also went live with our new cloud-based platform, which we believe will improve our forecasting agility is part of our digital transformation. The structural cost savings from our transformation efforts are a key enabler of reinvesting in our business for long-term growth and profitability.

Shifting to cash flow and capital allocation. Third quarter cash flow from operations and free cash flow were $1.1 billion and $1 billion, respectively. In Q3, the cash conversion cycle was minus 29 days. Sequentially, the cash conversion cycle improved one-day as higher days payable outstanding more than offset the increased days of inventory due to growth in inventory across PS and print and the one-day increase in days sales outstanding. For the quarter, we returned a total of $1.7 billion to shareholders, which represented 178% of free cash flow. This included $1.5 billion in share repurchase and $230 million in cash dividends. Looking forward, we expect to continue to aggressively buy back shares at elevated levels of at least $1.5 billion in Q4.

Looking forward to the fourth quarter, we continue to navigate supply availability and logistics constraints, pricing dynamics and the pace of economic reopening. In particular, keep the following in mind related to our overall financial outlook. For Personal Systems, we continue to see strong demand for our PCs, particularly in commercial. In Print, we expect solid demand in consumer and a mix shift as commercial continues to improve. For both Personal Systems and Print, we expect the component shortages, as well as some manufacturing, port and transit disruptions will continue to constrain revenue due to the ongoing pandemic and resurgence driven by the Delta variant.

Taking these considerations into account, we are increasing our Q4 and FY 21 EPS. We expect fourth quarter non-GAAP diluted net earnings per share to be in the range of $0.84 to $0.90, and fourth quarter GAAP diluted net earnings per share to be in the range of $0.82 to $0.88. We expect full year non-GAAP diluted net earnings per share to be in the range of $3.69 to $3.75, and FY 21 GAAP diluted net earnings per share to be in the range of $3.56 to $3.62. For FY 21, we expect our free cash flow to be at least $4 billion.

And now I would like to hand it back to the operator and open the call for your questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

We will now begin the question-and-answer session. [Operator instructions] Our first question comes from Matt Cabral with Credit Suisse. Please go ahead.

Matt Cabral -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Yes. Thank you very much. I wanted to start off on the PC side. So really strong operating margins, especially relative to just how were talking about that business 90 days ago. It sounds like a lot of that was the reduction in estimated incentive. Curious, if theres any way to quantify that impact? And just if there is any other swing factors to call out? And then going forward, just curious for your perspective on sustainability of margin that are above the longer-term range versus the need for some normalization beyond that point?

Marie Myers -- Chief Financial Officer

Hey, Matt. Good afternoon, and thanks for the opportunity. So, why did I hit up, unpack your question, Ill start on the outlook for PS the Q4, and then Ill flip over and give you an update on the it -- change in estimated incentive impact on margin. So, with respect to our PS rate outlook, look we have strong confidence in our Q4 operating profit and margin outlook. So far to date, were really pleased with our peers operating margins to date. And overall, we expect that PS will be well above our long-term range of 3.5% to 5.5% in Q4. So, think about it in terms of being similar to half one levels. And well talk more about that when we get to, SAM. Now to address your question with respect to the change in incentive, in terms of the impact on PS margin with respect to OP quarter-on-quarter, the net impact of the reduction in the previously estimated sales and marketing incentive was approximately about a 0.5, and were talking about that net of investments. And I will turn it to Enrique now.

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thank you, Marie. Let me address your question about sustainability. I think a very important thing to understand about this quarter is a strength of the demand that we have seen. Demand continues to be significantly stronger than our supply chain capacity. Backlog grew quarter-over-quarter, and this is really driven by the trends that we have been describing before. The hybrid world is opening and driving opportunities for us to continue to sell PCs. There is a very strong demand for PC for people working from home and we expect that to continue. So as we saw strong demand in Q4 -- in Q3, we expect to see strong demand in Q4 and to continue through 2022.

Matt Cabral -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Perfect. And then maybe building on that last answer, Enrique, you mentioned confidence in EPS growth next year. Im sure well hear a lot more at SAM, but just curious if you give us a preview of the biggest drivers underneath there? And just how dependent it is on that sustainability of demand or your revenue trajectory versus maybe other levers you have to pull?

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So, we continue to see a lot of opportunities across the Company, both in PCs, in Printing, in the new businesses we are creating. And as you said, we will be having our Investor Day in a few weeks from now, and we will be sharing all the details about next year at that point.

Operator

Our next question is from Jim Suva with Citi. Please go ahead.

Jim Suva -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Thank you very much. Can I just ask one question, and thats kind of on the PC side. There is a lot of investor questions about the peaking at the PC cycle and what were starting to see post the big boost on year-over-year, a year ago big sales. Can you give us some color about your orders, your outlook? It sounds like there is a hand-off going on from consumer to enterprise strength, if I heard you correctly, and therefore probably less strength in Chromebooks, am I getting that right? The installed base has been healthily way above 300 million units per year kind of on this run rate. Do you think were going to stay up there or go down quite a bit. Thats kind of the big debate. Thank you so much.

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

So, let me -- let me try to go one by one. So, first of all, as I was mentioning before, during the quarter, we continue to see very strong demand for PC, driven by -- driven by the trends that I described. What we saw was that when we finish the quarter, our backlog order that we had that one customer wanted that to shift were significantly larger than what it was at the beginning of the quarter. And what we saw is very strong demand from both commercial and consumer categories. In both cases, we saw increase of demand.

Marie, as you were mentioning, where we saw some weakness was on the Chromebooks space, because many -- and this was mostly in the US, because many school districts decided to stop their purchase activities until they had clarity on what type of new funds they were going to be getting from the federal government and the timing of those funds. Right now this has been clarified. We expect that now demand on the education space on Chromebooks will pick up at the end of this quarter or at the beginning of next quarter. But in any case very strong demand on the PC side, further growth on the commercial, but very strong growth for some consumer.

Operator

The next question is from Toni Sacconaghi with Bernstein. Please go ahead.

Toni Sacconaghi -- Bernstein -- Analyst

Yes, thank you. I also wanted to just follow up on PCs, with the question being why do you appear to be facing supply and logistics constraints that are significantly more pronounced than your competitors, Dell just reported PC growth of 27%, yours was zero, Lenovo had very strong growth. HP had been a perennial share gainer. And I think its lost share in PCs, three out of the last five quarters or four out of the five quarters. Why are these constraints so unique to HP? And then related to that, you expressed confidence in the backlog, but the Chromebook backlog was enormous one or two quarters ago, and its completely gone. And so what makes the certainty of your conviction and the sustainability of your backlog in PCs for commercial and consumer different from Chromebook?

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Toni, and let me also go one by one. On the PC side, what we saw is, we clearly have some areas where we need to improve operationally to be able to optimize our performance given the delta between supply and demand. And there are three areas where specifically we need to -- we are working and we need to do some more work. First of all, as you know we have an outsource model, where the majority of our production is managed by ODM. This means that also ODMs were managing it until now. The relationship with the providers of the components that we are missing. We have been changing that, signing now direct relationship and direct supply agreements with them. So this is addressing that gap.

Second important factor is, one of the key things of our PC business is the breadth of our portfolio. We lead both in consumer and commercial, but this portfolio had not been designed to optimize for low cost component, which is what we are missing now. We have been changing that. And yes, you will -- and we will introduce our new products going forward. You will see an increase of leverage of components across multiple products. So we can really optimize our digitalization of component.

And third, as we -- as Marie mentioned during the prepared remarks, we have been working to deploy a new ERP system, that the ERP system is now in place. I know we have the ability to create tools that will help us to optimize the allocation of order, not only based on business priorities, but also on component availability. And this is something that until now, because we were in the middle of the ERP we had to do manually. So when I look at all these three areas explain kind of the improvement that you are going to see on this side, and give us confident of how we will continue to optimize about -- how we manage the current situation?

Then the second part of your question, around Chromebooks. I think that an important factor to realize is that during the quarter, we closed the backlog because the shipments of Chromebooks were a 100% higher than shipments that we made before. When we look at the backlog that is left, we analyze it customer-by-customer, retailer-by-retailer, partner-by-partner, and this gives us very strong confidence on the value and the solidity of that backlog. If we look at cancellations with exception of Chromebook coming from some of the changes in the US School District, we are not seeing cancellations of the backlog. And as we mentioned before, it is more than one full quarter of demand what we have in backlog.

Toni Sacconaghi -- Bernstein -- Analyst

Thank you. Just my final question is, you -- you did say you were going to grow revenues in fiscal 22. You did not say were going to grow revenues in fiscal 22? Are you confident you will grow revenues in fiscal 22?

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

As I said before, we are going to be having our Investor Day in a few weeks from now, and we will -- that will be the right time to have all the conversations about fiscal year 22. Thank you, Toni.

Operator

The next question is from Amit Daryanani with Evercore. Please go ahead.

Amit Daryanani -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Yeah. Good afternoon. Thanks for taking my questions, afternoon as well, I guess. The first one, and we can maybe, if you talk about the Print business a little bit, it continues to perform really well, I think supplies was up 19% to 20%. I think the struggle everyone in this happening -- having those, what does profit normalization look like as supply growth starts to moderate back to the long-term averages? So Id love to understand, do you think there are structural changes in place within supplies, within Print actually, that ensure that even if supply starts to slow down, you can sustain that high-teen margins that youve been seeing over the last few quarters?

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you. So, first of all, in terms of the supplies performance, we are really pleased with the performance that we saw this quarter. So we need to accept that the 20% growth is also coming because we had an easy compare to last year, but again we are pleased with the performance of supplies. In terms of where do we see happening, basically the trends that we shared before, as offices are reopening. We are starting to see an increase and growth on the toner side, on the office side. And at the same time, we are starting to see sunlight glow down on the consumer side, which again is what we were expecting. And in any case, the consumer business today continues to be above the projections that we had for this time before the pandemic started. And this is our structural change that has happened.

Additionally to that, we have been able to accelerate the transition of our business models, both rebalancing profitability, but also significantly grow in our subscription businesses. And this gives us strong confidence about the evolution of the business going forward, but also in terms of protecting our supply shares because more and more customers are part of the subscription program. We make sure that they continue to use HP supplies.

Marie Myers -- Chief Financial Officer

[Indecipherable] previous comments.

Amit Daryanani -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Perfect.

Marie Myers -- Chief Financial Officer

Right now, our channel is where we waned to be. So going into Q4, were not expecting any channel replenishment at this stage either, Amit.

Amit Daryanani -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Perfect. Thank you very much. And then Marie, maybe a follow-up with you. On the free cash flow dynamics, inventory base, you talked about a little bit into the wide ramped up so much. How do you see that normalizing back into the October quarter? Does it normalize in October? Does it stay elevated I guess longer term? And what do you need to see as a company to take leverage back up to I think two times debt to EBITDA is what you talked about a year ago or so to accelerate the buybacks for them?

Marie Myers -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, look no worries, Amit. I mean, and I think I got the first part of your question, Ill address your comments on inventory. And quite rightly so you said that inventory is elevated this quarter, and thats really due to strategic assurance of supply. Look we expect that, its frankly going to remain higher than pre-COVID levels. But you know look we might see some adjustments quarter-on-quarter as we drive and meet customers needs. You know, were in a pretty dynamic environment as we speak here.

Now to address the second part of your question on leverage, right now, our gross debt to EBITDA is about 1.17%, which is -- its below our stated goal of getting toward 1.5% to 2%. And look we continue -- we expect to reach that lower end of the range over time, but right now given out our strong earnings and free cash flow performance, its going to be a couple of quarters. But I might just add that we are really proud of the job that weve done around capital allocation. I think you heard in my prepared remarks, that we said, we plan to purchase back at least $1.5 billion in shares in the quarter. Enrique, just turn it over to you for any closing comments.

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, maybe a couple of comments. I think its important to remember that we are really, and we stay very committed to aggressively return capital to our shareholders and our actions during the last quarter reflect that. As we mentioned, we have return this quarter $1.7 billion to shareholders, which is a 178% of free cash flow. Once the value plan started, we have return -- we have about 20% of our outstanding shares. So a really strong commitment to that. We during Q4, we are going to be buying at least $1.5 billion, so we are continuing with that. And during the Analyst Day, we will share with our plans for 22, but you can expect from us very strong focus on continue buying back and dividend.

Operator

The next question is from Katy Huberty with Morgan Stanley. Please go ahead.

Katy Huberty -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Yes, thank you. Marie, can you help us understand what the catalyst was to change the sales and marketing incentives in the quarter, because that was a big surprise? And at face value, it almost looks like it was a reaction to operational execution and shortfalls, but maybe that wasnt the case. And specifically, is this an accrual change or is then actual change in the level of payments that you were making in the quarter? And should we think about this new level as a new -- a new structural level, or will this recover as you come out of COVID? And then I have a follow-up.

Marie Myers -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes, and good afternoon, Katy. So why dont I explain to you, just walk you through this change in estimate, then Ill address your question specifically around the accrual in the reserve. So, we typically look at these estimates every quarter. So we estimate our sales and marketing incentives based on a number of different factors. So for example historical experience, expected customer behavior, accepted traits and a very important driver is market conditions, which as you know, weve experienced a lot of volatility, since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It is also worth noting that, that some of these programs take several months from six months to 12 months for the partners to claim. So with the impact of these market dynamics combined with the lower claims that weve seen from our partners, it became clear that we had to make this unusually large change in estimate in Q3. And frankly, we dont expect future changes of the size, but if it changes well make the appropriate disclosures.

Now, typically reserves, just to answer your question you asked me about the reserve, and then Ill address your structural component. Reserves are typically liabilities for estimated future payments. So a reserve can occur for a variety of reasons, one of those can actually be a change in estimate. And in terms of structural, as you know we have in place a transformation plan. We are expecting to be at 35% about $1.2 billion plan. And you know were always looking for opportunities to drive efficiency in our pricing and weve been very effective actually in pricing for the current market environment as you see in the results that weve delivered. So, certainly in terms of structural, were looking for opportunities to continually improve our pricing and our ability to price effectively in this dynamic period.

Katy Huberty -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Thank you for that color. And just as a follow-up. Historically, revenue increases 5% to 7% sequentially in October is normal seasonality, a reasonable expectation given that youre coming from the lower base of revenue in 3Q, given some of the execution issues that need to be addressed, or will it take longer to fix for instance the shortfall you saw on PCs in international markets and we shouldnt necessarily be assuming normal seasonality? Thank you.

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Let me take that question, Katy. And I think, we need to realize that we are in a very different situation than before the pandemic. Usually our business is demand-driven. And therefore there are -- there is some seasonality driven by important. Today, our business is totally driven by supply. But I said before, orders exceed significantly what we can produce and therefore normal seasonality, thats in apply to a year like this, because what we will be shipping is not what we will be getting orders for, is going to be what is the maximum amount of product that we can produce every day, every week, every month.

Operator

The next question is from Shannon Cross with Cross Research. Please go ahead.

Shannon Cross -- Cross Research -- Analyst

Thank you very much. My first question is just with regard to underlining -- underlying trends in Print volumes. And if you can talk about what youre seeing consumer SOHO, and the office? And maybe if you can talk about within regions that are either I guess returning to the office or reversing course. Just to get some idea of what youre seeing with the data that you get? Thank you.

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Shannon. The trends that we are seeing are aligned to the trends that we were expecting to see a quarter ago. We are starting to see recovery in the office side, though I have to say that, that recovery is uneven, and it is impacted by the evolution of the pandemic and certain countries when they are ahead we still, we see offices growth again and then we see an impact there. But the trend is positive in terms of office growth and we see faster growth on the SMB side than on the enterprise side. When I say growth, I mean recovery.

On the other side, on the home side, again, we were expecting, we are starting to see a slowdown as kids are starting to go back to the -- to schools in many countries and balance of work between home and office is also changing. Again, its what we were expecting. And in any case, what we see today and the projections that we have now continue to be above the projections that we have before the pandemic.

Shannon Cross -- Cross Research -- Analyst

And as a clarification, can you say youre at 80% or 85% of where you were Printing. And then my -- just Ill jump it in my second question is with regard to acquisitions. Especially, if youre going to start to see some revenue pressure next year given some of the strength youve seen in PCs this year, where are you at with regard to acquisitions? Thank you.

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. In terms of deviation versus number of pages printed, I guess your question is in the office. It goes between minus 15 and minus 25 or minus 20 something between SMB and enterprise. So we are still below what we were -- where we went to be, but this give you some ranges. And then in terms of acquisitions, we -- M&A continues to be part of our plan. We have a rigorous framework to analyze the opportunities that we see based on returns, based on alignment on strategy, based on our ability to execute. We are constantly evaluating opportunities in our core businesses, in adjacencies to support our new growth strategy.

And this quarter we had two great examples that show how do we approach, and how do we think about M&A? We closed the hybrid deal that is really allowing us to accelerate our growth into the peripheral space, and now we have a leading position in peripheral for gaming. And we did also a very exciting opportunity on the services space with the acquisition of Teradata Corporation, that will allow us to integrate into our services, remote compute for highly complex environment, which many of our customers are utilizing today. So, M&A is part of our plan and we are executing on that, when we see the right opportunity.

Operator

The next question is from David Vogt with UBS. Please go ahead.

David Vogt -- UBS -- Analyst

Great. Thank you guys for squeezing me in. So, I just wanted to go back to the backlog. Can you give us a little bit more granularity on sort of the mix? I know you mentioned that the Chromebook part of the backlog had come down pretty dramatically, but any more color on what that mix might look like given where the margin strength came in, in the quarter, so its a little bit surprising.

And then obviously it sounds like you think Chromebooks are going to come back a little bit into the mix. How do you think about sort of order growth from a Chromebook perspective relative to where the backlog is today, is what I mean by that is, so when you think about the October quarter, should backlog given supply constraints tick up again given your commentary, or do you think were at reasonable equilibrium, despite the supply chain constraints from a demand perspective? And then I have a follow up.

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. Let me address some of your points. So, first of all, first important factor is backlog grew during the quarter. So, we ended the quarter, we have higher backlog than what we had when the quarter started. The mix of the backlog was different. As I said before, we basically fulfill orders that we had with Chromebooks, but the rest of the commercial business and consumer grew significantly. And today, when we close the quarter more than 60% of the backlog was coming from commercial customers, which is where margins are higher and where we -- and this is really an important factor to have in mind.

As we look at the future, we expect the Chromebook business to accelerate again at the end of Q3 and at the end of Q4, but I think its important to have in mind that Chromebook represents around 10% of our total PC business even slightly below that. So its a relatively small business for us. What I really want to highlight is the strength of the commercial business, which really driven by companies reopening, office has been reopen and investments at corporations are doing and SMBs are doing, it improving their work and experience for their employees.

David Vogt -- UBS -- Analyst

And then, thats helpful. I appreciate that. Maybe just a follow-up from Marie along those lines. So I know you mentioned in Q4 margins will be more likely resembling kind of one half margins in Personal Systems Group. Is that the right way to think about it in terms of commercial margins are above where we are now and Chromebooks as it comes back into the mix into Q4 is slightly dilutive to margins? And thats how we think about sort of that step down from 3Q into 4Q, and then into 2022, if enterprise or commercial is still relatively strong. Should we be expecting margins in PSG to be above sort of your normal historical 3.5% to 5.5% range? Thanks.

Marie Myers -- Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. So going into Q4, as I mentioned earlier, we expect PS to be well above our long term range of 3.5 to 5.5. So just think about it in terms of being similar to the sort of half one levels. And to your comment about Chrome, yes, Chrome margins are usually more dilutive to PS. Now in terms of 22, how to think about 22 margins, were going to talk more about that in terms of the mid and long term at our Security Analyst Meeting on October. So, I will look forward to seeing you then.

Operator

Our last question today is from Ananda Baruah with Loop Capital. Please go ahead.

Ananda Baruah -- Loop Capital -- Analyst

Hey, thanks guys for taking the question. Hey, two if I could, Enrique, just to the remarks you made a few moments ago, if back to office get meaningfully delayed as we go through the fall here, like how should we think about the impact -- impact about the PC and the printing business? And in that you know if -- if the demand for back off of PCs is put on hold to any extent, do you think that there could be a switchback -- is there sort of PC demand still at the home that would need to be safety. And then I have a follow-up as well. Thanks so much.

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I think that the backlog that we have when the quarter started so high. When I say backlog is close to one full quarter, this gives you the magnitude of the orders that we are not able to fulfill. I think in the short-term, really we are very protected from many deviations versus our current plan. So, I dont think this will have any -- any big impact from that perspective, Ananda. And what we have seen is, especially on the PC side, we have not seen a big implication of their offices reopening or not, because more corporations realize that they need to invest in improving the experience for the employees and we are seeing very strong demand across the board.

Ananda Baruah -- Loop Capital -- Analyst

Thats really helpful. And then I guess the second one is, the actions that you described, Enrique, with regards to sort of the underutilized sort of the comments about being under indexed on share. You had talked about sort of executional dynamics, outsource model, components being optimized across SKUs ERP system. When do you believe that those actions collectively can start to make an impact that will show up in the P&L? And Im assuming that also youre suggesting that with the share repurchasing as well?

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think in terms of the actions, we have been working on them for -- for a couple of quarters now, and they will have impact gradually during the next month. This is really more about how do we optimize our performance within the current constrained environment. We shouldnt expect that with these, we are going to be able to double our capacity, because there are significant shortages of components, but it will have a gradual improvement in our performance, especially when we look at it competitively. And Im not sure, if I understand your comment about share repurchase. We are fully committed to continue to repurchase stock. We announced that we -- during Q4, we will be buying at least $1.5 billion of shares. And during the analyst meeting, we will share what are the plans for 2022. Thank you.

And I think that was the last question, so let me close by saying thank you everybody for participating. As you have seen during the call, we remain very optimistic about the opportunities at the new way of working that the hybrid world is opening for us. And we are making very good progress executing our strategy. We continue to see very strong demand. And in the short term, our results are going to be impacted by component availability, its not a demand-driven world, its a supply driven world. In this world, our ability to drive financial results is very strong. We are confident in the future, and this is why we raised guidance for the year and for Q4 to reflect the confidence that we have in the business. And as we said, we are looking forward to see all of you in our Investor Day in October. Thank you.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 58 minutes

Call participants:

Beth Howe -- Vice President and Head of Investor Relations

Enrique Lores -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Marie Myers -- Chief Financial Officer

Matt Cabral -- Credit Suisse -- Analyst

Jim Suva -- Citigroup -- Analyst

Toni Sacconaghi -- Bernstein -- Analyst

Amit Daryanani -- Evercore ISI -- Analyst

Katy Huberty -- Morgan Stanley -- Analyst

Shannon Cross -- Cross Research -- Analyst

David Vogt -- UBS -- Analyst

Ananda Baruah -- Loop Capital -- Analyst

More HPQ analysis

All earnings call transcripts

AlphaStreet

This article is a transcript of this conference call produced for The Motley Fool. While we strive for our Foolish Best, there may be errors, omissions, or inaccuracies in this transcript. As with all our articles, The Motley Fool does not assume any responsibility for your use of this content, and we strongly encourage you to do your own research, including listening to the call yourself and reading the companys SEC filings. Please see our Terms and Conditions for additional details, including our Obligatory Capitalized Disclaimers of Liability.

The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Say hello

Find us at the office

Schwede- Busard street no. 40, 77937 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Give us a ring

Smith Waltimyer
+86 488 682 876
Mon - Fri, 10:00-17:00

Join us