UK tech firm swoops on HP software unit in $8.8bn deal

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UK tech firm Micro Focus will buy Hewlett-Packard’s software business in a deal worth $8.8bn (£6.6bn).

Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE) includes the assets of Autonomy, the UK software group that HP bought in an ill-fated deal in 2011.

The deal makes Micro Focus one of the UK’s biggest tech companies, with total annual revenues of $4.5bn (£3.4bn).

Micro Focus was promoted to the FTSE 100 last week, replacing ARM after it was bought by Japan’s Softbank.

A string of acquisitions has turned Micro Focus, based in Newbury, England, from being a relatively small player to being worth over £5bn, with revenues doubling in 2015.

Shares in Micro Focus soared 18% in morning trading, making it the biggest winner on the FTSE 100.

Kevin Loosemore, Micro Focus executive chairman, said: “Today’s announcement marks another significant milestone for Micro Focus and is wholly consistent with the long-term business strategy we have been pursuing to be the most disciplined global provider of infrastructure software.”

Mr Loosemore said he approached Hewlett-Packard in February about a deal and was not put off by the market turbulence that followed the Brexit vote in the UK.

HPE has more than 50,000 customers including many of the biggest US companies.

We are accustomed to headlines bemoaning another UK industrial champion falling to a foreign predator. This morning the tide, if only briefly, is flowing the other way.

Micro Focus, a fast-growing technology firm based in Newbury, Berkshire, is merging with a division of the original Silicon Valley titan, Hewlett-Packard. Although the combination will have a slim majority of shareholders from the US company, this is a British takeover. The new Micro Focus will keep its listing on the London Stock Exchange, and the management will be British. The new entity should have a stock market value north of £10bn – about twice the market cap of Sainsburys.

While it is tempting to see this as a swallow that might herald a golden summer of takeovers by ambitious British companies, it has more to do with the weakness of an ageing tech giant rather than a resurgence of appetite on this side of the Atlantic.

Kevin Loosemore, Micro Focus executive chairman, started talks with HP in February having become aware that its chief executive, Meg Whitman, was intent on dismembering the company. That left some big businesses up for grabs, including HP’s Enterprise division. As chance would have it, that division includes what was once Autonomy, a UK tech champion that HP bought six years ago. This deal will bring control of Autonomy back to Britain.

It is also a reminder of how the mighty fall. Hewlett-Packard is rightly credited with having founded Silicon Valley, nurturing a string of high-tech entrepreneurs and technology companies that went on to conquer the world. In 1968, it put the first personal computer on sale – a snip at $5,000. Only two years ago it still employed 210,000 people; after today’s deal, that number falls to 50,000.

Turnaround

For Hewlett-Packard it is part of a dramatic downsizing from having been a giant of the computer industry with annual revenues of more than $100bn.

Under chief executive Meg Whitman the group has been stripped down to what she believes is its core strengths.

HPE was one part of Hewlett-Packard which split into two last year. The other part, HP Inc, focuses on computers and printers.

The software spinoff follows HPE’s announcement of the sale of its business services division to CSC for $8.5bn.

“We are taking another important step in achieving the vision of creating a faster-growing, higher-margin, stronger cash flow company well positioned for our customers and for the future,” said Ms Whitman.

The sale is also being seen as a way for Hewlett-Packard to finally shed itself of its ill-fated purchase of Autonomy.

After the takeover, Hewlett-Packard wrote off about three-quarters of Autonomy’s value, claiming that “accounting misrepresentations” had led it to overpay for the firm.

Autonomy denied that and a slew of legal action then followed.

 

Source: BBC