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The year 2013 promises to be make or break for Whitman's HP

03 Jan 2013

For most of us, the New Year typically marks an opportunity to start afresh, promising to give up bad habits and acquire more virtuous ones. It's a time when those of us with sunny dispositions think about the promise the year ahead holds, while our more Eeyore-like compadres contemplate another step forward on the road to the cemetery.

For large technology companies, New Years resolutions tend to be a bit harder to stick to than giving up the doughnuts.

Take embattled tech veteran HP: stemming the losses at the firm would be a great move, but it's easier said than done. Nevertheless, HP's latest filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission hint at what its board may have planned for the coming year.

The most eye-catching is a note 30 pages in to its latest 10-K filing, submitted to to the SEC in the last few days of 2012.

“We also continue to evaluate the potential disposition of assets and businesses that may no longer help us meet our objectives,” HP admitted.

It might seem blindingly obvious. Step one to business improvement: hive off loss-making units. But it's the first time in recent memory that HP has included such talk in its financial paperwork.

It's also likely to incite a flurry of speculation about which units are first in line to be sold off.

One has to presume that having last year decided its PC business – which lets face it, looks to be a business line with limited scope for growth – would not be sold off, HP isn't about to reverse that decision.

So how about EDS and Autonomy? These two units have been responsible for HP writing down billions of dollars, as the book value of the units dropped faster than a courtesan's petticoat under HP's stewardship. But HP could find it difficult to find a buyer for units now so badly tarnished.

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