HP (NYSE:HPQ) renounced its shopaholic ways after going on a $43 billion shopping spree since 2006, depleting its balance sheet of needed cash. A chastened CEO Meg Whitman declared: "It's certainly the end of big acquisitions."
Going further in HP's conference call, Whitman promised "rebuilding its balance sheet and (we) will not be doing any large M&A." When pressed by analysts to define "large," Whitman swore off takeovers costing $1 billion, although she opened the door to smaller "sub-$500 million" ones.
Two weeks later, HP is buying Hiflex, a private German cloud computer company specializing in software for print and media industries for an undisclosed sum. I'll take Whitman at her word and assume the price for Hiflex is under $500 million.
Still, I can't help but think HP's binging days are far from over. The one thing HP doesn't need is a few more purchases: Its shopping cart is already wobbling down the aisles. Unfortunately, the only way to cure this spendthrift is to take away its credit card. As for true reform, it's time for an M&A moratorium.
So far, the market has embraced HP's new CEO. Shares have climbed over 20% since Whitman replaced ousted Leo Apotheker. Her words have been reassuring. Unless she delivers, her honeymoon with investors will soon come to an end.