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Who is to blame for the HP's £5.5bn writedown of Autonomy?

Derek du Preez | Nov. 26, 2012
HP’s £5.5 billion writedown of Autonomy and the shock fraud allegations that claim it misled HP prior to it being acquired for £6.5 billion in 2011 has resulted in the IT industry pointing the finger of blame in all possible directions.

He added: "There was a series of mismanagement steps. They lost hundreds of the talented people at Autonomy. Sadly they are left with the results of having destroyed all that value. Now they are trying to cover it up with this big write off."

Victor Basta, managing director of Magister Advisors, a company that advises on IPOs for technology companies, supported the view that the blame should lie with HP, as it wrongly looked for a 'quick-fix' with Autonomy.

"HP's pursuit of a 'buy software to get out of hardware' strategy has failed. Autonomy was always an off piste deal. Many large businesses will do a series of bread and butter mid-sized deals, but in HP's case they went for broke," said Basta.

"HP is clearly on a mission to change but it was essential they worked first to fix the culture and revamp the business before making a game-changing acquisition. HP's leadership made a huge mistake by attempting to 'fix by buying'."

Basta also said that Autonomy's business is based on a one-time software licence model, as opposed to a subscription model, and at the time of acquisition it was growing very fast. He believes that the combination of the one-off sales model and the speed of growth meant that Autonomy was a very difficult business to value.

He added: "HP would have been far better off targeting, like IBM and Dell, a range of smaller acquisitions, with more predictable revenue, and which they could gradually build around. It takes a decade, not a year, to achieve this kind of change.

"HP's culture has however made it impossible. Transitioning from a hardware business to a software business requires a fundamental shift in corporate culture - and that is something that you simply can't buy."

Finally, Richard Holway, chairman of analyst firm TechMarketView commented on the news by saying that he 'cries for all of them'. Holway has said that he considers Lynch a friend, and has also previously held shares in both HP and Autonomy.

HP has added more detail to the accusations made yesterday, which include claims that Autonomy booked IDOL licence revenue sales to VARs rather than to end users and that its revenues from hardware resales had been incorrectly billed as software - both of which could manipulate the company's revenue prospects.

Interestingly, Holway has been contacted by people, who do not want to be quoted, that support HP's claims.

Holway said: "Indeed, most seem to infer that this was going on at Autonomy for many years. The media this morning is full of analysts saying that they had long questioned Autonomy's accounting methods. 'I told you so' was writ large."

 

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