HP buys big

Contact: Brenon Daly

Earlier this week, Hewlett-Packard closed its $3.1bn acquisition of 3Com. It was a significant shot at the company’s new rival Cisco Systems, adding additional networking and security products to HP’s ProCurve portfolio while also dramatically increasing its business in Asia (3Com generates roughly half its sales in China). The deal was announced on November 11, and closed on Monday.

What’s interesting is that HP, which was once a fairly steady dealmaker, has been out of the market since that purchase. Its rivals, however, haven’t been on the sidelines. In the five months since HP announced the 3Com buy, IBM has inked five deals, Dell has announced two transactions and Cisco has picked up one company. Of course, some of HP’s inactivity could be chalked up to its efforts to digest 3Com, which stands as the company’s fourth-largest acquisition. (On the other side, Cisco knocked out a pair of $3bn purchases in just two weeks in the month before HP reached for 3Com.)

But we understand from a couple of different sources that although HP is looking to do fewer deals, they will be larger. The shift has actually been taking place for some time at the company. In 2007, like a number of cash-rich tech giants, HP was basically knocking out a purchase each month. That pace slowed to just five deals in 2008, including the landmark acquisition of services giant EDS. Last year, HP bought just two other companies besides 3Com. It looks like the company, which is tracking to more than $120bn in sales this year, has realized that the big get bigger by buying big.