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Meg Whitman to step down as HP Enterprise CEO

One of the most high-profile women in the technology industry, Meg Whtman, is stepping down after six years leading Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co (HPE).

[NEW YORK] - One of the most high-profile women in the technology industry, Meg Whtman, is stepping down after six years leading Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co (HPE).

Whitman will remain on the board, HPE said on Tuesday in a statement. She will be succeeded on Feb 1 by president Antonio Neri.

Whitman, 61, took over Hewlett-Packard Co after it suffered a series of missed targets amid rising competition under her predecessor, Leo Apotheker. She set about slashing jobs and dramatically resetting investors' expectations for how well the company could perform at a time when customers were adopting cloud computing services HP was ill-equipped to provide. After initially opposing efforts to break up the company, a Silicon Valley institution once known for its innovation, she eventually agreed to split Hewlett Packard's PC and printing units from higher-margin businesses aimed at corporate computing.

After separating from HP Inc, the PC unit, in 2015, Whitman spun off and merged HPE's enterprise services and software business and made acquisitions including Aruba Networks, Silicon Graphics International, SimpliVity and Nimble Storage.

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Under her leadership, Whitman oversaw almost US$18 billion in share repurchases and dividends and delivered a total shareholder return of 89 percent, HPE said. Since the two companies began trading separately on Oct 19, 2015, HPE stock has gained 47 per cent.

"Meg has worked tirelessly to bring stability, strength and resiliency back to an iconic company," HPE chairman Pat Russo said in the statement. Neri "is the right person to deliver on the vision the company has laid out."

Neri's promotion wasn't entirely a surprise. A longtime HP executive, Neri, 50, was promoted to the role of president in June, raising speculation about Whitman's succession plan. In his more than two decades at the company, starting as a customer-service engineer in a call center, Neri climbed to one of the top leadership positions at the Enterprise Group. That division is HPE's largest business segment, including servers, storage products, networking and services. In that role, Neri oversaw research and development, new product introductions and marketing strategy.

The leadership shuffle came as HPE gave a forecast for earnings in the fiscal first quarter that missed analysts' estimates; revenue in the fourth quarter also fell short of projections. In the current period, adjusted profit will be 20 to 24 cents a share, compared with an average prediction of 27 cents. In the quarter that ended Oct. 31, sales of US$7.66 billion missed the US$7.77 billion average estimate.

The shares fell 5.3 per cent to US$13.37 in extended trading in New York. They had been little changed Tuesday before the announcements.

Whitman was the second-highest-paid American female executive, after IBM's Ginny Rometty, with compensation of US$52.3 million, according to the Bloomberg Pay Index. Since 2009, 19 female CEOs of Standard & Poor's 500 companies have stepped down. In only three of those cases was she replaced by another woman, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Her departure brings the number of female CEOs in charge of S&P 500 companies to 25, or 5 per cent.

HPE didn't say what's next for Whitman, who previously helmed online retailer EBay Inc. She ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for California governor in 2010 before taking over Hewlett-Packard, and was an early front-runner for the job of CEO at Uber Technologies, which eventually went to former Expedia executive Dara Khosrowshahi.