As Hewlett-Packard (HPQ - Get Report) prepares to break apart its enterprise unit from its division that produces personal computers and printers, the tech institution said Wednesday that it will sell cyber security unit Tipping Point to Tokyo-based Trend Micro International for $300 million.
The divestiture may let the company streamline and tighten operations, but represents a small portion of Hewlett-Packard's offerings to corporations and other large enterprises. For HP, with a $51 billion market cap, the larger question is what strategic moves follow the Nov. 1 breakup.
HP Chief Executive Meg Whitman, who will be CEO of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, criticized the debt load Dell is taking on and said the integration pains would present opportunities to gain business. The split from HP Inc. will allow Whitman to focus on the enterprise business. She faces the daunting task of growing a stagnant $52 billion top line, however, so there may be pressure to look at bigger deals.
"HP and Dell are pretty commoditized in storage. They are both looking at shrinking revenue from services," said Corum Group Ltd. banker Nat Burgess. "What's your ticket to growth? When you're a $50 billion revenue company, it gets harder to find that."
Whitman has pointed to the $3 billion purchase of Aruba Networks earlier this year as a model for HP's deals, and also emphasized that the company will invest in its own businesses. Management may still feel the burn from the disastrous $10.3 billion acquisition of software developer Autonomy Corp. in 2011, before Whitman was CEO.
Ovum plc analyst Jens Butler suggested in an email the split will allow Hewlett-Packard Enterprise to "focus on their core customer base" while also targeting newer technologies. "The Dell/EMC impact will be minimal initially," he added.
While Whitman has acknowledged Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will pursue acquisitions, she also endorses partnering and investing in the business. Megadeals do not seem part of the plan.
The tax-free split of HP and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise includes an agreement that restricts deals that could undo the financial engineering and require a bill to the Internal Revenue Service.
Burgess suggested the provision is effectively a poison pill that could thwart a takeover. An outright buyout of the company or a deal involving more than 50% of the stock in Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, for example, could create problems.
Bob Willens of tax consultancy Robert Willens LLC suggested in an email the agreement may seem more restrictive than it really is. While the rules say substantive deal discussions held before two years have passed since the spinoff was completed could jeopardize its tax-free status, they contain a safe harbor provision that allows a deal to completed after one year.
"Even with EMC, and even where HPC would issue more than 50 percent or more of its stock, the longest it would have to wait, before reprising substantial negotiations, would be one year from the date of the spinoff," he wrote.
Burgess said there are logical targets. Business management software and e-commerce group NetSuite (N) said Hewlett-Packard would distribute its software. With a $7 billion valuation, Burgess noted, NetSuite could be "within reach."
ServiceNow (NOW - Get Report) , which automates IT, human resources, facilities management and other processes, would "update" assets Hewlett-Packard gained in the $4.5 billion purchase of IT management group Mercury Interactive Corp. in 2006, Burgess added.
Private data management company Cloudera could boost HP's cloud analytics offerings, Burgess said, and give the company a "wedge" into new business.
HP declined to comment on strategy, beyond management's public discussions. ServiceNow and Cloudera also declined to comment. A representative of NetSuite could not immediately be reached.
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise will need a proprietary way to get and keep customers, Burgess said, suggesting EMC's VMware software unit would have done the trick.
"They don't have it internally," he said. "They are going to have to buy it."