The market had quite an ugly day Thursday. But for a brief moment, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) swam upstream the down-current on news it is considering a massive $10 billion buyout of software firm Autonomy, among a host of other reports swirling around the stock that day. HPQ stock gapped up about 6% at lunch time yesterday even as the Dow Jones bounced along about 400 points below the index’s reading at the opening bell.
Of course, the gains were fleeting and Hewlett-Packard stock finished the day down, along with nearly every other stock on Wall Street. Some investors were fooled for about an hour — and then the profits evaporated. In trading Friday, HPQ stock slumped to a new six-year low.
Yesterday’s news is a fitting example of how is trying to manage its business these days. The 10-figure buyouts. The claims that it is rethinking its role in the tech sector. The blatant flaunting of its massive cash stockpile at a time when companies claim to be suffering from the economic downturn.
Hewlett-Packard is everything that’s wrong with corporate America right now — stupidity, a lack of innovation, bloated operations and no leadership.
Lots of people thought Hewlett-Packard was delusional when it bought Palm in 2010. At the time, the company didn’t have a hint of self-awareness but instead engaged in the typical hyperbole of a big-name buyout. Check out this gem from the an official press release on HP.com:
“Palm’s innovative operating system provides an ideal platform to expand HP’s mobility strategy and create a unique HP experience spanning multiple mobile connected devices,” said Todd Bradley, executive vice president, Personal Systems Group, HP.
Oh yeah? Well what about the news yesterday that Hewlett-Packard will be abandoning any effort to capitalize on the mobile market by killing its tablet computer and mobile phone business based on WebOS — the very gadgets Palm was supposed to inspire?
Only a wasteful, boneheaded corporation like HP can make a $1.2 billion purchase during a recession then give up on that buy a mere 16 months later. (That sounds almost like something Congress would do, doesn’t it?)
The icing on the cake: Just this past February after the Palm deal closed, HP made a big to-do about its plan to duke it out with the iPad — and just months after smack-talking, it had to eat its words.
Lack of Innovation
Unfortunately, the $1.2 billion for Palm is just part of a spending spree fueled by HP executives with too much money and a desire to spend it without thinking.
In November 2009, the tech giant paid $2.7 billion for routing and digital security stock 3com. Then in September 2010, Hewlett-Packard engaged in a spitting match with Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) to buy out data storage and cloud computing stock 3Par — with HP paying $2.35 billion for its “winning” bid of $33 per share, more than 83% higher than Dell’s opening bid of $18 a share.
Now we have news that the company could be buying British software stock Autonomy for $10 billion, according to reports confirmed by major news sources Thursday.
We’ve already had HP essentially admit the Palm move was a disaster. But even if we take a huge leap of faith and assume those other moves pay off, HP is building its future profits on the work of other companies and the efficiencies it can gain from streamlining operations to maximize margins and profits.
That’s fine if you’re a CEO or executive at the top of the food chain. Not so good if you’re part of the 25,000 workers trimmed in the wake of the 2008 acquisition of Electronic Data Systems for $13.6 billion. Or the 9,000 HP employees let go in 2010, or the thousands of folks who undoubtedly will be terminated as this tech giant “consolidates” operations in the years ahead thanks to these bloated buyout deals.