HP Enterprise in talks to sell software unit to Thoma Bravo

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HP Enterprise in talks to sell software unit to Thoma Bravo

Division challenged by market shift to cloud.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is in talks with buyout firm Thoma Bravo LLC to sell its software division, hoping it can fetch between US$8 billion and US$10 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

The negotiations come as HPE chief executive Meg Whitman seeks to focus the US company's strategy on networking, storage, data centres and related technology services, after its separation last year from computer and printer maker HP Inc.

HPE has received offers for the software unit of as much as US$7.5 billion in a sale process managed by investment bank Goldman Sachs, the sources said this week.

Thoma Bravo has made the highest offer for the assets among the private equity firms that held discussions with HPE, though significant discrepancies in valuation expectations persist and no deal is certain, the people said.

Other private equity firms that made offers for the software assets include Vista Equity Partners Management LLC, Carlyle Group LP and TPG Capital LP, the people said. It was still possible that HPE would turn to a buyout firm other than Thoma Bravo to pursue a deal, or that Thoma Bravo would buy only some of the assets, the people said.

A sale of HPE's entire software division to a single private equity firm would be easier if the latter already owns some related companies, the people said. Thoma Bravo owns several software companies, including Dynatrace and Compuware, which could produce cost savings and efficiencies if combined with some of HPE's software assets.

The sources asked not to be identified because the negotiations are confidential. HPE, Goldman Sachs, Thoma Bravo, Vista Equity, Carlyle and TPG declined to comment.

HPE's software unit generated US$3.6 billion in net revenue in 2015, down from US3.9 billion in 2014. The company has said revenue growth in its software unit has been challenged by a market shift toward cloud subscription offerings.

HPE acquired part of its software portfolio as a result of its ill-fated US$10.3 billion acquisition of Autonomy in 2011 and the US4.5 billion acquisition of Mercury Interactive in 2006.

The software assets also include Vertica, a big data analytics platform, ArcSight, a cyber security firm, as well as products for IT operations management.

HPE is the latest technology company looking to slim down a large portfolio of noncore software assets that are struggling to generate growth. In June, Dell agreed to sell its software division to buyout firm Francisco Partners and the private equity arm of activist hedge fund Elliott Management for more than US$2 billion.

In May, HPE agreed to merge its IT services and outsourcing unit with CSC to create a US$9 billion company in a tax-free all-stock transaction known as a Reverse Morris Trust.

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