HP wins control of Autonomy

Hewlett-Packard on Monday night declared that it had sealed its £6.7bn ($10.4bn) acquisition of Autonomy, bringing to a close a controversial and closely watched deal.

HP said that 87.3 per cent of the UK software company’s shareholders had accepted its all-cash, £25.50-a-share offer, which represents a 79 per cent premium to the price before the bid emerged in August. The markets have assumed since Friday that the deal was all but done, with the shares trading at £25.45. A number of large UK institutions holding Autonomy shares tendered their acceptances late last week.

Mike Lynch, chief executive of Autonomy, who is to take a leading role in HP’s software division, said the deal had opened a “fascinating new chapter” for his company as part of a bigger, global corporation.

The ousting of Léo Apotheker, HP’s chief executive, in the middle of the bid process added some anxiety for Autonomy shareholders. Some investors felt Mr Apotheker had overpaid for the British software company, an impression furthered by comments last week from Larry Ellison, chief executive of Oracle, a fierce rival of HP.

Mr Ellison said Oracle had been offered the chance to buy Autonomy but had thought the company overpriced. The comments sparked a public row between Mr Ellison and Mr Lynch over whether meetings to “shop” the company had or had not taken place.

However, under UK takeover rules it is virtually impossible to reverse a firm bid offer and, in spite of investor concerns over price, Meg Whitman, HP’s new chief executive and Ray Lane, executive chairman at HP, had both confirmed that they supported the strategy to buy Autonomy.

They have, however, played down the significance of the deal in transforming HP into a company more focused on software.

Ms Whitman has indicated that HP would review the decision, announced at the same time as the Autonomy deal, to spin off HP’s hardware division into a separate company.

Mr Lynch is not contractually required to stay with HP but said last week that he was looking forward to working with both Ms Whitman and Mr Lane, who has a background in the software industry.

HP shares, which have lost more than 45 per cent of their value during a turbulent year, closed 1.11 per cent lower at $22.20.

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