But investors shouldn't think this means HP will sell or spin off its PC business. Nor will it dump its troubled Autonomy unit, according to IDC market research analyst Crawford Del Prete.
A sentence in HP's 10-K annual report sparked investor excitement: "We also continue to evaluate the potential disposition of assets and businesses that may no longer help us meet our objectives." Bloomberg's Aaron Ricadela first spotted it and noted that the sentence didn't appear in last year's 10-K.
The key qualifier in that statement, according to Del Prete, is "that may no longer help meet our objectives." He believes that indicates that HP is looking to shed its oddball units like:
- Snapfish, a website that lets consumers print digital photos that it acquired in 2005
- Its outsourcing business. HP is trimming 29,000 jobs from its workforce, and its HP Enterprises Services unit is a major target of those cuts. There's been ongoing speculation that outsourcing business is on the block.
- WebOS, now called Gram, which is the remnant of the HP's acquisition of Palm.
All of these are more likely targets than the PC group, Del Prete told Business Insider.
"The PC group is the first thing everyone is zeroing in on," Del Prete said, but he "would be very surprised" if HP would really dump it, particularly now that it has been merged with the printer business.
In 2011, HP shocked the market with an announcement that it was considering a sale or spinoff of the PC business—part of a series of announcements that tanked the stock price and helped usher former CEO Léo Apotheker out the door. HP ultimately studied a divestiture but decided it didn't make sense.
"One of HP's strategic goals is generating cash to pay off debt," Del Prete says. "The PC business and printer business have the ability to generate a lot of cash."
IDC predicts that the PC business is near its bottom and will grow again in 2013.
"The bottom line is there are a lot of really important things you need to do on a PC can't do on another platform," Del Prete says. "People will continue to buy PCs to the tune of hundreds of millions of units and HP is the No. 1 PC supplier," as of the most recent quarter.
As for speculation that HP will dump its troubled Autonomy software business, that doesn't make sense either to Del Prete.
CEO Meg Whitman "talks about information management and security as core pillars of her strategy," Del Prete says. Autonomy "is one of the biggest search assets they have," fitting into the information-management category. "
While they overpaid for it, it's still an asset," says Del Prete.
HP accused former Autonomy executives of improper accounting in announcing an $8.8 billion writedown of the unit in November. HP has referred the case to authorities and says the Department of Justice is investigating.
This is the second time in a month that HP's stock's rallied on speculation that the company might break itself up. Earlier in December, a rumor circulated that famed activist investor Carl Icahn was interested in HP and would force a breakup.
Icahn's interest was never confirmed. Business Insider reached out to his investment company for comment but he could not be reached.
HP politely declined comment on which business units might be sold and confirmed that HP is not considering a big breakup at this time, offering this statement:
HP has some of the most valuable franchises in the technology industry. There are many advantages in one organization, including branding, go-to-market, supply chain, procurement scale, effective leverage of functional costs, and collaborative R&D efforts. HP is committed to keeping our businesses and assets together. Our customers and partners tell us that’s what they want.
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