HP extends $11.2 billion Autonomy offer

LONDON (Reuters) - Hewlett-Packard has extended the deadline for its $11.2 billion takeover of British software company Autonomy, with analysts predicting the U.S. firm is on course to succeed.

A man walks past the Hewlett Packard logo at its French headquarters in Issy le Moulineaux, western Paris, in this September 16, 2005 file photograph. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/Files

HP has extended the deadline for the offer to October 3 after gaining acceptances from shareholders representing 41.6 percent of shares. The company requires a further 33.4 percent support from Autonomy investors to delist its target from the London Stock Exchange.

“I am very surprised that they have needed to extend it at all,” S&P equity research analyst James Crawshaw said on Tuesday. “I would have expected Autonomy shareholders to be all pretty much happy with the takeout price.”

Although it is rare for takeover offers to gain more than a handful of acceptances at the first closing date, some analysts said they had expected more investors to take up the offer because HP is offering a hefty 79 percent premium.

HP offered an agreed 2,550 pence per Autonomy share on August 18, which it said valued the enterprise search software company’s fully diluted share capital at 7.09 billion pounds ($11.2 billion).

Panmure Gordon analyst George O’Connor said investors that had not yet accepted the offer would hang on to the end for a competitive deal.

“You have got a very decent bird in the hand, but there might be another two in the bush. My own view is that the bush is empty. HP is paying a very decent price. I do not see a competitive bid approaching.”

Analysts and bankers are skeptical that a rival offer will emerge to create competitive tension and boost the price.

“I do not think anyone else has the same urgency to buy Autonomy as HP,” Tom Gidley-Kitchin at Charles Stanley said.

“I guess that a lot of professional investors are holding onto their shares until late on, against some miniscule chance of some better offer.”

A top 50 Autonomy shareholder expressed satisfaction with the offer.

“To be honest we would be quite surprised if there was anything else out there. I wouldn’t put us down as being majorly unhappy,” the shareholder said.

Gidley-Kitchin said sentiment in the technology sector, hardware and even software, was a bit negative. Autonomy investors may be hanging on because there was nowhere better for them to put their money.

Autonomy shares were steady, up 0.32 percent at 2,525 pence at 0945 GMT.

The offer is conditional on regulatory clearance. HP said on Tuesday that filings have been made in the United States, Austria, Germany and Ireland.

($1 = 0.633 pound)

Reporting by Julie Crust, Georgina Prodhan, Christopher Vellacott and Victoria Howley; Editing by Dan Lalor and Elaine Hardcastle