HP's Whitman Playing 3-D Printing Rope-a-Dope?

The CEO's recent comments to grow 3-D printing organically may not be indicative of the company's true growth strategy.

Jan 6, 2014 at 11:15AM

Meg Whitman said on Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE:HPQ) latest earnings call that the tech bellwether she leads would enter into the 3-D printing game organically as opposed to acquiring an existing player in the space. Whitman has made it clear her vision for HP is planted in hardware and methodical growth. However, when Whitman ran online auction giant eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), she wasn't opposed to enter big, transformative deals such as PayPal, Skype, Braintree and 25% of Craigslist (Whitman did even say she would have liked to buy 100% of Craigslist). There's no doubting the notion that Whitman is certainly a leader in Silicon Valley, but simply playing the cards sitting in front of her doesn't seem to suit her style. So, could she be simply waiting for the right opportunity to make a big splash in 3-D printing for HP? Whitman is known for making big headlines. For instance, she denied that she was interested in running for governor of California. However, she later ran as a Republican and lost to Democrat Jerry Brown despite spending over $150 million of her own money during her campaign, according to The Washington Post

With 3-D printing growing as an industry despite still being in an early life cycle, HP may be really hinting at organic growth in the space. Then again this is Whitman's HP, so expect the unexpected, especially since 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) just paid $32.5 million to acquire some of Xerox's (NYSE:XRX) product design, engineering, and chemistry group. Therefore HP can't afford to watch competitors make deals and build their 3-D printing brands and not participate. Skype was eBay's largest acquisition at $2.6 billion. HP's previous largest takeover was $25 billion for Compaq, so pulling the trigger on a blockbuster deal is something HP understands and may need to remember considering all of the M&A activity that is happening in the 3-D printing space. 

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John Licata has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow John on Twitter @bluephoenixinc. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems and eBay. The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems and eBay and has the following options: short January 2014 $20 puts on 3D Systems. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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