HP has had more drama than many of the Real Housewives, which is why a new story on Quartz is worth very little. The article claims that HP’s storied board is considering a breakup of the company’s business, which include computing, printing and services. This is something HP mentioned in a December proxy statement, but the story implies that Quartz reporters also talked to people about the potential for a breakup.
However the story has more hedges than an English estate. From the story:
The HP directors have discussed the details of a possible breakup scenario, but also the merits of the company staying whole, since a recovery seems to be slowly taking hold and its share price has gained steam since it fell below $12 last November, the people added. In January, the stock went above $17 and has been trading around $16.50 in recent days.
There is no overt pressure to break up HP—whose divisions include units selling computers, corporate servers and services—and no final decision has been made, the people said.
HP declined to comment on the possibly of a breakup, and the Quartz story, when I reached out for comment. However, the company (and its board) is probably as muddled as the story. With Meg Whitman as its third CEO in three years, HP faces a market crisis on top of a leadership crisis. The number of problems HP has are complicated and numerous, so its no wonder the board is unsure of how to best create “the most shareholder value.”
I can barely wrap my head around it. Let’s start with a bulleted list:
- It purchased Autonomy, for a whopping $10.2 billion and late year recognized it overpaid. So it sued Autonomy for accounting fraud.
- It has seen its cloud strategy coalesce and dissipate like so much mist over a succession of years. It’s most recent cloud chief left just last month.
- Meanwhile the emergence of other cloud providers, and their disdain for HP’s hardware has led to analysts to question the viability of HP’s hardware business over the long term. The same questions loom for the printing business in a world going digital.
- On the consumer side it missed the boat on mobile, much like its rival Dell, and has since failed on the smartphone (It bought PALM!) and has an inconsistent mobile strategy.
But as the board looks at HP’s future it’s likely eyeing Dell’s decision to go private today as a huge data point to consider. There many similarities between both companies in terms of the challenges to their hardware businesses, and the Dell transaction now leaves the company free to pursue businesses that might cannibalize existing server sales for the sake of getting in on the high growth scale out web market. I believe that Dell will use the freedom it has as a private company to come back as a player in the new infrastructure world. I’m not sure I have much faith in HP.