HP disclosure raises fresh questions about future of local operations

Tech giant considering selling assets, businesses

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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Hewlett-Packard Co., whose workforce includes an estimated 500 employees in Vancouver, is considering jettisoning assets and business units, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company said in its year-end financial statement.

"We also continue to evaluate the potential disposition of assets and businesses that may no longer help us meet our objectives," HP said in an annual financial report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Dec. 27.

That language wasn't included in the document a year earlier, according to Bloomberg.com, and represents a shift in company strategy as it struggles to shore up its finances in the face of rapid technological changes, tough competition and an $8.8 billion writedown of Autonomy Corp., a software company it acquired.

HP — the world's largest manufacturer of personal computers and printers — also is slashing 27,000 jobs worldwide to cut costs.

The company's disclosure that it's evaluating disposing assets and businesses raises fresh questions about the future of the company's printer operations in Vancouver, where an estimated 500 people develop consumer printers for HP's global imaging and printing group at the company's lab at 1115 S.E. 164th Ave.

Local economic development officials said last year they would help affected workers if any major changes by HP hit Clark County.

Hewlett-Packard's statement that it's examining sales of assets and businesses came 14 months after the company's CEO, Meg Whitman, said she would keep the company's personal computer business in-house. Her predecessor, Leo Apotheker, had explored a spinoff of the unit.

Whitman instead unified the PC and printer groups' management under one of the company's senior managers last year.

Hewlett-Packard's disclosure of its evaluation of selling assets and businesses is found in the "Risk Factors" section of its Dec. 27 SEC filing. In that section, the company also outlined the headwinds it faces in trying to execute such moves.

"When we decide to sell assets or a business, we may encounter difficulty in finding buyers or alternative exit strategies on acceptable terms in a timely manner, which could delay the achievement of our strategic objectives," the company said. "We may also dispose of a business at a price or on terms that are less desirable than we had anticipated."

The company's $8.8 billion writedown of the acquired software company Autonomy Corp. renewed calls on Wall Street for HP to realize shareholder value by shedding certain businesses, such as PCs and printers, Bloomberg.com reported.

In its regulatory filing, HP said the U.S. Justice Department had launched an investigation relating to Autonomy. Hewlett-Packard accused the software company of misrepresenting its performance before being bought in 2011.

Bloomberg.com contributed to this story.