HP Concerned About Possible Oracle Bid To Acquire It: Report


Hewlett-Packard's Board of Directors were apparently concerned about the possibility that arch-rival Oracle might attempt to acquire the company during its CEO change, according to a published report.

In addition, has hired Goldman Sachs Group in a bid to protect itself against activist investors, according to another report.

Bloomberg reported that the HP Board last week expressed concerns about a possible hostile takeover bid by Oracle when it replaced Leo Apotheker with Meg Whitman as president and CEO of the company.

However, while Oracle may have informally considered such a bid, it may not have been able to actually take action because of a clause in its agreement with HP over Oracle's hiring of Mark Hurd as co-president which precludes the company from trying to acquire HP until early next year, Bloomberg reported.

Hurd walked away from his position as HP president and CEO in August of last year over alleged improper filing of expense reports, and one month later was hired by Oracle, resulting in lawsuits between the companies that were later resolved.

The Bloomberg report was based on unnamed sources near the HP Board.

HP has also hired investment banker Goldman Sachs to help guard against the possibility that activist investors could push HP to make unwanted changes in the wake of the recent plunge in HP's stock prices, the The Wall Street Journal reported.

HP's shares are currently trading at around $24, less than half of the 52-week peak of $49.39 they reached in February.

The possibility of activist investor pressure on HP intensified after the Board replaced Apotheker with Whitman, the Journal reported.

Both HP and Oracle declined to comment on the possible interest Oracle might have in acquiring HP. However, an HP spokesperson emailed a statement in response to the Goldman Sachs report which read, "HP has long-term relationships with a large number of investment banks."

Carl Wolfston, principal at Headlands Associates, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based solution provider and long-time HP partner, said there have been rumors swirling around the possibility of Oracle acquiring HP for the last three or four weeks as HP's stock prices plunged.

"The rumor mill was especially busy after Apotheker pulled his blunder over talk about HP getting rid of PSG," Wolfston said.

Wolfston said he finds it hard to see why Oracle would want to acquire HP, especially after Oracle's acquisition of Sun which gave it a hardware base.

"If Oracle got HP's hardware, then who would it sell Oracle software to?" he said. "If Oracle had HP, then IBM and Dell would not want to deal with it."

Bret Osborn, president of Lilien Systems, a Larkspur, Calif.-based solution provider and long-time HP partner, said the while a move by Oracle to acquire HP and then sell off some of its high-value parts would be difficult, it is not entirely far-fetched.

Should Oracle acquire HP, there are three obvious immediate impacts, Osborn said. The first would be for Oracle to sell off HP's PSG (Personal Systems Group), as Oracle has no interest in the PC business. The second would be for Oracle to sell of HP's huge printer business. And the third would be for Oracle to start using HP's Enterprise Services business which was built on the back of HP's EDS acquisition.

However, given the fact that Oracle already has a server and database appliance business, it is hard to understand what it would do with HP's server business, Osborn said.

"It's an interesting thing that HP has a real thriving printer and PC business separate from Enterprise Services," he said. "I could see why Larry (Ellison, Oracle CEO) would consider the acquisition."