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Whoops, HP Just Bought Another Company

Published on December 6, 2011
by Arik Hesseldahl

On Hewlett-Packard’s last earnings call, CEO Meg Whitman told analysts that they should assume that HP would be doing no large acquisitions or mergers in 2012. It will be a year, she said, for “rebuilding the balance sheet.”

Then Whitman hedged: “Let me put it that way. I would say these are going to be more acquisitions, in the sub-$500 million range would be my guess. We might get to $1 billion, but I doubt it.”

Now we know what she meant by that. Overnight, HP said it will acquire Hiflex Software, a German maker of printing management software. The deal is small enough that terms haven’t been disclosed, and that makes it hard to analyze.

Hiflex is based in Aachen and specializes in supplying print services to the commercial printing and graphics industry. Launched in 1991, it has completed some 300 customer projects, and its products are generally used to help different parts of a printing operation work together.

Vyomesh Joshi, HP’s executive vice president and the head of its Imaging and Printing group, described the deal like so: “HP wants to break the traditional barriers of how and where business customers print, making it easy for them to produce custom or personalized materials anywhere, anytime … Hiflex’s technology provides a powerful platform to deliver on this goal as part of our overall cloud printing strategy.”

Brian Marshall, an analyst with ISI Group, said in a note to clients this morning that he thinks it’s a “small deal,” but one that amounts to “an inexpensive way for HP to build exposure to cloud services that integrate with existing HP assets,” like printing.

If HP is going to be acquisitive at all during 2012, the deals are going to look like this. Now, at least, we know what to expect. And, as Whitman sets expectations, so far she’s sticking to what she says, which is a good sign.

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