HP and EDS: High risk say analysts

IT pundits have questioned HP's strategy in snapping up EDS in a £7.13 billion buy out.

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HP’s decision to buy EDS for £7.13 billion this morning offers considerable potential benefits but the execution carries significant risks, according to analysts.

The IDC European Software and Services Group, a sister company of ComputerWorld UK said that the combined organisation would be “very strong on infrastructure, but … relatively light, compared to IBM and Accenture, (on) business-level dialogue with the customer.

“And business-level dialogue is no longer a luxury, it's an essential part of winning the higher-margin and indeed higher-growth services such as application management and business process outsourcing.”

Ovum analysts Phil Codling, Tom Kucharvy and John Madden said the merger has the potential to "shake up" the entrenched competitive landscape for global IT services.

"The top ten or so of the IT services industry have barely changed places, let alone ownership, despite interminable rumours and private equity interest. But here comes a possible very big play indeed - big not just for HP and EDS, but also in terms of its potential to shake up the entrenched competitive landscape in global IT services."

However, HP is also faced with a massive integration programme. "It's difficult to comment on how an HP-EDS integration might theoretically proceed, but it would inevitably entail risks."

"Combining services portfolios and delivery platforms to maximise economies of scale would be a huge task. Of course people are the greatest asset of a services business and, despite HP's new found organisational efficiencies under Mark Hurd, HP would need to move quickly to stem any potential 'brain drain' from EDS," the analysts said.

"On paper an HP-EDS combination looks workable. But in practice it could prove anything but," they added.

Adding EDS, with revenues of $22.1bn in 2007, would more than double the size of HP's services business, which has $16.6bn in revenues. The resulting $39bn (£20bn) services operation would still be smaller than IBM Global Services, which has revenues of $54bn (£27bn). But "the merger would bridge this gap substantially and establish the merged entity as the clear number two in IT services," said Ovum.

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