Update: HP offers $27 per share for storage vendor 3Par, outbidding Dell again

The price tag for maker of storage arrays hits $1.8 billion, and the next move belongs to Dell

Hewlett-Packard has raised its offer for 3Par to $27 per share, outbidding Dell once more as the battle to acquire the California-based storage vendor continues.

The offer came just hours after Dell raised its own bid to buy the company. Dell said Thursday morning that 3Par had accepted its raised offer, but the terms allowed HP to slip in with another bid. It's now done just that, putting the ball back in Dell's court.

[ On InfoWorld's Tech Watch blog, Ted Samson asserts that HP can't let the 3Par deal slip through its fingers. | Are your storage requirements out of control? Then start by eliminating data redundancy. InfoWorld contributor Keith Schultz lays it all out in our Deep Dive Report on Data Deduplication. ]

A spokesman for Dell said its agreement with 3Par gives it the option to match HP's offer. "We'll take some time, assess the situation and act in the best interests of our customers and shareholders. We'll make a comment regarding our next step at an appropriate time," Dell spokesman David Frink said via email.

The companies are squabbling over a maker of storage arrays that are well-suited to virtualized environments, which would allow them both to expand in the fast-growing market for "private cloud" infrastructure. The escalating bids point to the strategic value they place on 3Par's technology.

Dell offered to buy 3Par at the start of last week for $18 per share, or about $1.15 billion net of 3Par's cash. HP made a counterbid on Monday, offering $24 per share, or about $1.6 billion.

Dell topped that offer by just $0.30 on Thursday morning, and HP wasted no time with its latest counterbid, which puts the latest price tag at $1.8 billion.

A 3Par spokesman declined to comment on HP's latest offer, and Dell did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

HP acknowledged it is offering a high price for 3Par, which reported a loss of $959,000 for its fiscal year ended March 31, on annual revenue of $185 million. HP's offer of $27 per share is almost three times what 3Par's shares were trading at before the acquisition battle began.

But HP argued that it is "uniquely positioned" to execute on the transaction and that the deal provides value to its shareholders. "We have a strong business case and are confident this transaction makes strategic and financial sense," HP said.

3Par was founded in 1999 and has about 650 employees. It says it has more than 6,000 clients, including managed service providers Savvis, Verizon Business and Terremark; Internet companies MySpace.com, Tickets.com, and Priceline.com; and enterprise customers such as Pier 1 Imports.

The company spent 25 percent of its revenue on research and development last year, according to its 2009 annual report, a relatively high figure amount compared to other technology firms. The figure has been declining, however, from 29 percent in 2008 and 37 percent the year before that.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.