HP Denies It Tried To Sell Autonomy To SAP

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

HP may be publicly committed to its troubled Autonomy acquisition, but SAP says it tried to offload it quietly

HP has denied claims by the co-CEO of SAP that it tried to sell its ill-starred software acquisition, Autonomy, to the German software giant.

SAP was approached by HP executives offering Autonomy for sale, SAP’s co-CEO Bill McDermott told the Times of London earlier this week. HP denies this, saying that in fact, it was SAP that contacted HP asking to buy software assets – not necessarily including the British information management software vendor. Autonomy has been a thorn in HP’s side since it bought it for $11.3 billion (£7.4bn)  in 2011 – and then wrote the asset down by $8.8 billion (£5.8bn), accusing Autonomy executives of fraud.

HP’s ‘magical’ Autonomy

Meg Whitman CEO HP

“Contrary to reports in the media, HP has no interest in selling Autonomy,” read an HP statement,.  “During the past year, we’ve received inquiries from SAP about purchasing HP software assets, and time and again, we’ve said ‘no.’ We believe Autonomy will play an important role in HP’s long-term strategy.”

This echoes HP CEO Meg Whitman’s endorsement of the “magical” powers of Autonomy at a press conference in April.  McDermott’s claim is that HP was offering Autonomy for sale before her statement – and SAP declined, feeling its own search software HANA was good enough for its needs.

“We were aware that it was on the market at one time but were never seriously interested in Autonomy,” McDermott said.

It’s worth noting that HP is a big SAP customer, with regular meetings between top executives of both companies, and any discussions of this kind might have emerged very informally. It’s not a surprise if the different parties have different recollections of what was said.

SAP has also taken issue with the Times report. Spokesman Jim Dever claimed that HP never “approached” SAP or had talks with it, according to AllThingsD. All McDermott meant was that SAP was “aware that Autonomy was on the market”.

HP bought Autonomy during the short but disastrous tenure of CEO Leo Apotheker, who previously ran SAP.  Lawsuits around the purchase continue.

HP is also a customer of OpenText, another Autonomy rival, which is revelling in HP’s discomfort.

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