HP Busy With Acquisitions

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With the resignation of CEO Mark Hurd, August has already been a busy month for Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) . Thanks to the company's recent spending habits, it's gotten a lot busier.

In addition to its bidding war with Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) to acquire storage provider 3Par (NYSE: PAR  ) , HP has also in the past week successfully acquired a data software firm, Stratavia. The most recent rumors have linked Hewlett-Packard to security software company ArcSight (Nasdaq: ARST  ) .

Charles King, analyst at Pund-IT, said the overarching theme of HP's acquisitions is a desire to get stronger in the enterprise realm. "Obviously, they are trying to improve their enterprise capabilities with different companies. Enterprise is the driver, it's the part of the company that seems to benefit the most."

Rob Enderle, chief analyst of the Enderle Group, has a slightly different take. He says HP's moves represent a defensive strategy against Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) and IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , two competitors that are ramping up software services.

"In the past, HP recognized they needed to catch IBM in the services realm. Now they have to do it in software and you also have Oracle entering that space, too. They have to significantly increase their software portfolio to stay relevant in a software-centric world," Enderle said. Unsurprisingly, Oracle and IBM are two other rumored bidders for ArcSight. None of the three would comment on the rumors.

Both analysts agree that the 3Par move is an offensive move against Dell, which has been trying to branch out on its own into the same market. The highly publicized bidding war took another turn Friday morning when, after getting its $27-per-share offer matched by Dell, HP once again upped the ante with a $30-per-share bid.

"There's almost assuredly a part of HP that wants to keep 3Par out of Dell's hands as much as it wants it for its own reasons. In a side-by-side comparison, Dell is becoming an increasingly formidable competitor. Keeping 3Par in the fold would be a way to curb that threat," King said.

For Dell, Enderle said a 3Par acquisition would help the company move beyond its reputation as an "aging PC manufacturer" and allow it to focus on cloud computing.

The real winner, of course, is 3Par, which has turned from a relative unknown into one of the industry's hottest commodities. Enderle says future companies in a similar financial position and size to 3Par, including ArcSight, might be able to get valuations ramped up in a similar fashion.

"This has nothing to do with 3Par and its own valuation. It's how 3Par can fit into either HP or Dell. So if you were a small company, you're trying to figure out what gap you fill in one of these companies. Nothing says EMC, IBM, and Oracle won't continue to be on the acquisition track as well. The right property could get a tremendous amount of money."

HP and Dell did not respond to requests for comment.

International Business Times, The Global Business News Leader

This article has been lightly edited. The Fool owns shares of Oracle. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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