HP Taps Merrill Lynch to Sell WebOS Unit

Posted by at 11:57 am on November 8, 2011

HP is seriously exploring the possibility of selling the webOS division outright, four insiders said Monday night. The company has brought on Bank of America Merrill Lynch to decide whether or not it makes sense to sell the group, the sources told Reuters. An asking price might run into the “hundreds of millions” of dollars, which would see HP take a loss on its $1.2 billion Palm buyout but still command significant interest.

“Several” companies have mentioned possibly buying the team, although not necessarily just for its hardware or software expertise, according to the tips. Patents may play significant roles in any deal. Oracle is considered one of the front runners and is well-known for its attack against Google over claims that Android violates Java patents and copyrights despite Sun being welcoming of the OS before it was bought out.

One candidate may be Sony, whose mobile team wouldn’t rule out a takeover. After experimenting with Symbian and Windows Mobile, Sony Ericsson has been using Android exclusively for its smartphones. WebOS potentially gives it an in-house platform that would be immune to legal pressure from Microsoft or anyone else trying to profit from Android lawsuits and royalties.

HP has denied any outright closures but has gone on the record as saying it was evaluating webOS’ fate and would have an answer soon. Neither side commented on the rumor.

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