HP chiefs get takeover shakes

HP has called in Goldman Sachs to fend off tentative approaches from Oracle.

Sources have informed the Times of India that plummeting shares are causing much concern among the directors at HP, with Oracle having considered making an informal approach to buy up parts of the company.

Shares have been heading south since Apotheker signed the suicide note to dump the PC business, along with the TouchPad and webOS.  The $10.3 billion Autonomy purchase was also considered reckless overspending by analysts and rivals alike.

Since Meg Whitman took over as ditherer-in-chief following Apotheker’s ousting, things have not gone well.  HP is losing market share while everyone wonders what’s going on, and Whitman has been lambasted for having little knowledge of the software and hardware business – having run a rather different business in eBay.

Now all of the turmoil has attracted Oracle which says it is willing to pick up parts of HP on the cheap. Oracle, which is locked in a bloody legal dispute with HP, is tipped to bid for the $18.7 billion server, storage and networking division. Which would be a real slap in the face and the death of Itanium.

The $46.1 billion market value is a fair bit more cash than Oracle has lying around. Sources say Oracle is not interested in the printer or IT services segments.

Disgraced HP CEO Mark Hurd may make a move difficult.  The tail-end of a lawsuit about his Oracle defection as co-president is that he should agree to protect HP’s confidential information.

This agreement also means any approaches couldn’t happen until early next year.

But this has not stopped HP execs from having a fright, and calling in the heavy mob to deal with upstart investors in case of any action from within.

Goldman Sachs has tipped up put in shareholder rights plans, which will make takeovers more difficult, according to the Wall Street Journal.   

Usually activist investors will buy shares on the cheap when a firm’s fortunes are on the downturn, before buying up shares and creating a position from which to agitate for change.  Which, of course, could open the door for Oracle.