HP locks horns with Dell over data group

Hewlett-Packard squared up to long-time computer rival Dell with a $1.6bn counterbid for data storage company 3Par on Monday, adding to a surge in technology mergers by industry leaders pushing to expand their business range.

Global dealmaking in the sector has risen by 60 per cent this year, according to Dealogic data, even as market volatility and ailing confidence in the economy has helped stifle an M&A recovery in some sectors.

That resurgence has been led by the US, where deal volumes have almost doubled relative to 2009 because of big transactions, including Intel’s move last week to buy McAfee for $8bn.

HP executives told the Financial Times that they had been pursuing 3Par – which makes high-end storage systems and data management products – before Dell agreed to buy it a week ago for $1.15bn.

“HP’s proposal offers superior value to 3Par’s shareholders. Our global reach, strong routes to market and commitment to innovation uniquely position HP as the ideal fit for 3Par,” said Dave Donatelli, general manager of HP’s Enterprise Servers, Storage and Networking unit.

If 3Par accepts the HP unsolicited offer, the deal could close by the end of the year.

Under Mark Hurd, the recently ousted chief executive, HP in particular has moved into new areas as diverse as smartphones, networking and storage, where demand has boomed as businesses race to intensify analysis on exploding customer and transaction data.

Dell has also followed HP moves in several markets, most notably agreeing to buy Perot Systems last year after HP acquired the far bigger EDS.

HP’s acquisition spree in recent years includes deals for EDS, 3Com and Palm, as it extends the company’s reach beyond its traditional strengths in consumer PCs and printers.

Last week’s offer by Dell was seen as threat to rivals such as HP, IBM and EMC as the computer maker pushed its way into the IT services business and looked to gain a stronger foothold in the growing world of “cloud computing”.

Under the terms of the original transaction, Dell will have certain rights to match HP’s proposal, should it be deemed superior by the board of 3Par. The deal between 3Par and Dell included a termination fee of $53.5m. Dell and 3Par had no immediate response.

The rival bid from HP comes as it seeks new leadership in the wake of Mr Hurd’s departure. Cathie Lesjak, the Palo Alto-based company’s acting chief, reassured investors that its “winning strategy” was intact.

HP shares slipped by 2.94 per cent in mid-morning trading, while 3Par jumped 40.8 per cent.

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