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Updated from 12:40 a.m. EST

PALO ALTO, Calif. (




(HPQ) - Get HP Inc. Report

on Wednesday struck a $2.7 billion deal to acquire



, a shocking move aimed at bolstering its networking business.

The 3Com deal, which was announced after the market closed, is a clear indication of Hewlett-Packard's desire to tackle its long-time partner


(CSCO) - Get Cisco Systems, Inc. Report

in its own backyard.


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stepped on H-P's toes earlier this year when it entered the server market, signaling

all-out war

between the two companies.

"Companies are looking for ways to break free from the business limitations imposed by a networking paradigm that has been imposed by a single vendor," said Dave Donatelli, vice president of H-P's enterprise server and networking division, in a statement.

Mark Hurd, H-P CEO

The $7.90 per share all-cash deal has been approved by both companies' boards, and is expected to close in the first half of next year.

3Com's shares rose $2, or $35.15%, to $7.69 in extended trading as investors responded to the deal. Hewlett-Packard's stock, however, headed in the opposite direction, dipping 32 cents, or 0.64%, to $49.68.

Hewlett-Packard will now combine its own ProCurve networking portfolio with 3Com's offerings, significantly boosting its reach in corporate data centers. With many firms rethinking their IT strategies as the economy emerges from the recession, H-P is clearly laying the foundations for the future. Specifically, the deal expands the tech bellwether's Ethernet switch and routing products, as well as its presence in China.

Marlborough, Mass.-based 3Com has earned a reputation for aggressive pricing and recently announced plans to

expand its Chinese H3C subsidiary

into the rest of the world.

In a separate announcement Hewlett-Packard also revealed its preliminary fourth-quarter results, with revenue of $30.8 billion, down 8% on the same period last year, but above analysts' estimate of $29.79 billion.

Excluding items, H-P announced preliminary earnings of $1.14 a share, up from $1.03 a share in the same period last year. The preliminary figure, however, excludes charges of around 15 cents a share related to amortization, restructuring charges, and acquisition-related costs. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had predicted earnings of $1.12 a share.

H-P also raised its earnings and revenue outlook for fiscal 2010. H-P expects revenue between $118 billion and $119 billion, compared to its prior estimate of between $117 billion and $118 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had predicted sales of $118.1 billion.

Excluding items, H-P predicts earnings between $4.25 and $4.35 a share, up from its prior forecast of between $4.20 and $4.30 a share. Wall Street had predicted earnings of $4.28 a share.

-- Reported by James Rogers in New York.