Richard Windsor, an analyst for Nomura International, said Microsoft and Oracle may also be eyeing the company, which specializes in enterprise search and information management. "There is a distinct possibility of a counterbid," said Windsor, in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
Microsoft has about $9.6 billion in cash and equivalents and Oracle has about $16 billion, compared to HP's war chest of $13 billion. Either company may be in a position to prepare a leveraged bid for Autonomy. "That could cause HP some considerable problems," said Windsor. HP has offered $42.11 a share for Autonomy.
Autonomy could enhance Oracle's Secure Enterprise Search software, or it could complement Microsoft's Bing search technology. Microsoft in the past has shown a willingness to pay big for enterprise search. The company in 2008 paid $1.2 billion for Fast Search & Transfer.
Autonomy may be a particularly attractive target for U.S. tech vendors because it is British. "These cash-rich companies look quite favorably on acquisitions because a lot of their cash is stuck overseas and they can't bring it back into the U.S. without paying a substantial tax so acquisitions of this nature are quite attractive to them," said Windsor.
HP, for its part, believes Autonomy could be a valuable addition to its portfolio of cloud computing offerings as it looks to boost margins by exiting the PC business.
"Autonomy presents an opportunity to accelerate our strategic vision to decisively and profitably lead a large and growing space," said HP CEO Leo Apotheker in a statement. "Autonomy brings to HP higher value business solutions that will help customers manage the explosion of information. Together with Autonomy, we plan to reinvent how both unstructured and structured data is processed, analyzed, optimized, automated and protected."
Apotheker added that Autonomy fits well with HP's existing lineup of middleware.
"Autonomy has an attractive business model, including a strong cloud-based solution set, which is aligned with HP's efforts to improve our portfolio mix. We believe this bold action will squarely position HP in software and information to create the next-generation Information Platform, and thereby, create significant value for our shareholders," he said.
Shares of Autonomy closed up 71.6% in Friday trading, to $40.56.
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