SAN FRANCISCO – The showdown over 3Par Inc. that ended Thursday was a puzzling spectacle.
It pitted two of the world's biggest technology companies against each other for control of a company that was obscure outside of technology circles and flat-out unloved on Wall Street, with a stock that was stuck around $10 for a year and a half.
3Par, which was founded 11 years ago by former Sun Microsystems managers, was seen as a takeover candidate well before Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. started bidding on it in mid-August. The company's uneven financial performance dampened investors' enthusiasm despite the fact it is in the lucrative market for "virtualized storage," which is an important technology for companies that sell services over the Internet.
What wasn't anticipated was the ferocity of the wrestling match for a company that was seen as only tangential to HP's and Dell's core businesses.
The bidding contest revealed more about HP and Dell and the changing technology landscape than it did about the innovations that 3Par brings to the table.
HP won 3Par with an offer of $2.07 billion, or $33 per share, which is more than three times what 3Par's stock was trading at when rival Dell Inc. made its first offer Aug. 16. Dell said Thursday it is walking away from the negotiations after a final bid of $2 billion, or $32 per share.
Many analysts were surprised the bidding went so high.
"At this price, it's a little ridiculous," said Jayson Noland, an analyst with Robert W. Baird & Co. "To me, it tells you how far behind HP and Dell are in storage, not necessarily how incredible an asset 3Par is."
Technologies from 3Par will be part of HP's expansion beyond personal computers and printer ink. HP's former CEO, Mark Hurd, aggressively pursued that expansion, and many industry analysts saw HP's intensity in pursuing 3Par as evidence that the company wanted to prove that it can still close big deals.
"They're sending a clear message that, 'We're in transition but we're not missing a step,"' said Nina Buik, chief marketing officer for Connect Worldwide, an organization of more than 50,000 customers of HP's business-technology products. "They're wanting to instill confidence, and mission accomplished."
HP's tender offer is scheduled to expire on Sept. 24, and the acquisition is expected to close by the end of this year.
Before Dell made its first offer, 3Par stock was trading at just under $10 per share. It closed Thursday's regular trading session at $32.88 per share, just below HP's latest offer price.
Meanwhile, HP's stock during that time has fallen 2 percent to close at $39.68 Thursday. Dell's stock has risen 3 percent to $12.36.
3Par is based in Fremont, Calif., and employs 670 people. It went public three years ago at $14 per share. HP is based in Palo Alto, Calif., and has about 300,000 employees.