HP is in discussion with Autonomy about its possible acquisition for $10.3 billion (£7 billion).
Following mounting online speculation, HP confirmed that it is in talks with Autonomy but offered little detail on any progress. It did say that it plans to announce that its board of directors has authorised the exploration of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group and that it will consider a broad range of options that may include a full or partial separation of the group from HP through a spin-off or other transaction.
Cambridge-based Autonomy has previously acquired online backup and recovery, digital archiving and eDiscovery businesses from Iron Mountain, as well as the information governance business from CA Technologies. According to Bloomberg, Autonomy provides HP software that searches a broad range of data, including emails, music, video and posts on social networks such as Facebook.
As well as a strong footprint in computing, HP has plenty of interest in information security having acquired 3Com, Palm, ArcSight and Fortify last year. However rumours of a bid for McAfee were ended when Intel completed a deal last summer.
The deal would also see HP discontinue operations for webOS devices, specifically for the TouchPad and webOS phones. Bloomberg claimed that by discontinuing webOS products, HP is backtracking on a strategy it announced just five months ago to put webOS software on every HP computer. HP did say that it will continue to explore options to optimise the value of webOS software going forward.
Dr. Mike Lynch, founder and CEO of Autonomy, said: “This is a momentous day in Autonomy's history. From our foundation in 1996, we have been driven by one shared vision: to fundamentally change the IT industry by revolutionising the way people interact with information.
“HP shares this vision and provides Autonomy with the platform to bring our world-leading technology and innovation to a truly global stage, making the shift to a future age of the information economy a reality.”
Léo Apotheker, president and CEO of HP, said: “Autonomy brings to HP higher value business solutions that will help customers manage the explosion of information. Together with Autonomy, we plan to reinvent how both structured and unstructured data is processed, analysed, optimised, automated and protected.
“Autonomy has an attractive business model, including a strong cloud-based solution set, which is aligned with HP's efforts to improve our portfolio mix. We believe this bold action will squarely position HP in software and information to create the next-generation information platform.”
Tim Daniels, TMT strategist at Olivetree Securities, said: “It would make perfect sense for one of the big database players to want to own Autonomy. The software is indeed unique and growing in importance.
“HP would be buying this as part of a refocus of the business on software. They have been talking for a while about a focus on software, clients now don't have a problem accumulating data, the problem is the structuring of it, as 80 per cent of the data on the web now is unstructured. Moves like SAP-Hana and Oracle-Exadata have been focused on this as a product area and HP buying Autonomy would fit into this too.”