To Sell Or Not To Sell: That Is The Question For H-P’s Whitman

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Are parts of Hewlett-Packard up for sale, or are they not?
The position was far from clear yesterday after “people familiar with the discussions” told the Wall Street Journal the company has received “expressions of interest” from potential suitors for its UK-based Autonomy division.

Some potential buyers have also reportedly expressed interest in EDS, the tech-services company that H-P purchased for US$13.9 billion in 2008.

But separately, people associated with CEO Meg Whitman said her attitude was that the company did not intend to sell off anything – despite H-P saying in a recent regulatory filing that it would consider divesting some businesses “that may no longer help us meet our objectives”.

H-P acquired Autonomy in October 2011 for more than US$11 billion in an eyebrow-raising deal done by Whitman’s predecessor Leo Apotheker, who was sacked before the deal was closed, but not before H-P stock had plummeted 40 percent during his brief reign.

In November his replacement, Whitman, accused Autonomy of shady accounting and used that as the basis for an $8.8 billion write-down in Autonomy’s value.

But she has since said she intends to hang onto the Autonomy outfit, along with all others.Her turnaround plan is said to call for every significant business unit inside the company to remain part of H-P.

That’s a far call from Apotheker’s plan to sell off a number of businesses including the PC division.T

hat seems to appeal to shareholders: H-P shares yesterday rose nearly 4 percent to $17.21 on the news.

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