HPE said to plan sale of its software unit

HPE is said to be talking to private equity firms for the sale

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is said to be looking to sell its software division, which would include the business from its disastrous acquisition of Autonomy in 2011, according to news reports.

The enterprise IT company that emerged from the breakup of Hewlett-Packard has been restructuring its operations recently, including a US$8.5 billion deal announced in May to spin off and merge its enterprise services business with CSC. A sale of the software business would leave the company focused largely on servers, networking, storage, business critical systems and technology services.

HPE is aiming at a price of between $8 billion and $10 billion for the software unit, reported The Wall Street Journal, quoting a person familiar with the situation. Reuters also earlier reported talks by HPE with private equity firms, including highest bidder Thoma Bravo, to hive off the software business.

HPE  does not comment as a policy on rumors and speculation, a spokeswoman said Thursday evening.

The sale is in the ‘possible but not probable’ category, wrote Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in an email. "Companies are always evaluating their options, even if it's to gauge the value of a business whose value isn't indicative in the public stock price," he added.

The sale of the software business will also help HPE put behind it the controversial acquisition of Autonomy, a software company in the U.K. The undivided HP took a $8.8 billion charge in 2012, alleging serious accounting improprieties at Autonomy before the acquisition. The charges were denied by the former management of the software firm, leading to legal claims and counterclaims.

HPE’s software division had revenue last year of $3.6 billion down by about 8 percent from $3.9 billion in the previous year, a decline it attributed to customers' transition to SaaS (software-as-a-service)  subscriptions. The unit being offered for sale is focused on software for managing business operations, with the company planning to keep software businesses linked with parts of customers’ key technology infrastructure—such as software-defined networking, WSJ said.

“If they were to sell their current software business, I would expect them to make new software acquisitions at the PaaS and IaaS layer,” Moorhead wrote. “They have to be in software in some way, the only question is how.”

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