HP PC business worth US$8bn – but who’s the buyer?

24 Aug 2011

Samsung has rejected reports that it plans to buy HP’s PC division. According to analysts the PC division could come with a US$8bn price tag. Perhaps the bidder won’t be another PC player, what if it instead turned out to be Google?

It kind of makes sense if you think of Google’s ambitions of late. It is producing a Chrome-based netbook, it has just bought its own smartphone arm in the form of Motorola Mobility for US$12.5bn, and still has a lot of cash sloshing around in its corporate war chest.

According to Forbes, Stern Agee analyst Shaw Wu wrote in a research note that the HP PC business may be worth about US$8bn with a 5pc operating margin on US$40bhn in annual revenues.

Wu suggests other manufacturers like Acer, Lenovo, Sony and Dell may be interested but questions whether any of them would want to expand what is already a low margin business.

Step in a major player with computer industry and mobile device hardware aspirations like Google.

Buying HP’s PC division could give it leverage to make its own Chrome-powered netbooks, notebooks and tablets.

Scratching the surface of the mobile computing revolution

But if Google isn’t interested who else might be? Maybe Microsoft, which has also been acquisitive of late having bought Skype for US$8.5bn.

Buying HP’s PC division would enable it to keep the market for Windows computers alive and also give it access to the burgeoning mobile computing device market. Microsoft has avoided wholeheartedly involving itself in hardware, but in the face of the obvious success of Apple and the likely success of Google in this sphere, can it afford to remain aloof?

Then again, perhaps the eventual purchaser could be a manufacturer we know little about. Very few in the computing world in the US or Western Europe particularly, expected IBM’s PC division to be snapped up by Lenovo in 2005.

As stellar sales of HP’s TouchPad in the past week have shown, it didn’t know what it started when it announced plans to spin off its PC and webOS businesses, but I suspect things are going to get very interesting.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years