Part of former Autonomy business back under British ownership as Micro Focus acquires software arm of Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Mike Lynch, founder of the former Autonomy company, part of which has now been sold by Hewlett Pack

Mike Lynch, founder of the former Autonomy company, part of which has now been sold by Hewlett Packard Enterprise. - Credit: Archant

British technology company Micro Focus International is to buy the software arm of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) – which includes part of the former Autonomy – in a deal valued at 8.8bn US dollars (£6.6bn).

The combined entity will have annual revenues of 4.5bn US dollars (£3.4bn), creating one of the biggest software firms in the UK.

Micro Focus executive chairman Kevin Loosemore, who will head the new firm, said: “The merger will create one of the world’s largest infrastructure software companies with leading positions across a number of key products and represents a compelling opportunity to create significant value for both companies’ shareholders by applying Micro Focus’ proven approach to efficient management of mature software products.”

Meg Whitman, president and chief executive of HPE, said: “With today’s announcement, we are taking another important step in achieving the vision of creating a faster-growing, higher-margin, stronger cash flow company well positioned for our customers and for the future.”

Micro Focus, which has its headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire, has embarked on a series of acquisitions under Mr Loosemore. In 2014 it snapped up Attachmate for 1.2bn US dollars and bought Serena Software this year for 540m US dollars.

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The HPE deal includes many assets formerly part of the Cambridge-based Autonomy company, which Hewlett Packard acquired in an 11bn US dollar deal in 2011 before later writing off three-quarters of the value of the business.

some other parts of Autonomy passed to HP Inc when it and HPE were formed last November through a split of HP into two separate companies.

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The write-down in the value of Autonomy by HP, before its split, has sparked criminal investigations and civil litigation on both sides of the Atlantic.

HP has launched legal action alleging that Autonomy’s revenues were overstated during a two-and-a-half-year period from 2009 to 2011, which it says resulted in it overpaying by an estimated £3.2bn.

However, Autonomy founder Mike Lynch – who has a home in Suffolk – and his fellow Autonomy directors deny any wrong-doing, insisting that the company was fully transparent in dealings with both its auditors and with HP.

And Dr Lynch has launched a counter-action in the UK’s High Court, claiming damages against HP for alleged false and negligent statements about him.

Early in 2015, the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) closed an investigation into the sale of Autonomy, stating that there was “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction”.

The SFO ceded legal jurisdiction to authorities in the US, although the lawyers for Autonomy’s former directors argue that any proceedings belong in a British court.

In July this year, Micro Focus reported pre-tax profits of 195m US dollars (£145.7m) and revenue of 1.2bn US dollars (£896.4m).

Its acquisition of the HPE business reverses the recent trend of UK technology firms passing into overseas ownership, including most recently the purchase of semiconductor and software firm ARM Holdings by Japan’s Softbank for £24.3bn.

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