Will Mercury slip through HP's fingers?

Over the next two days, 350 of Australia's more senior IT types will gather in Melbourne for Mercury Interactive's annual local user conference.

Over the next two days, 350 of Australia's more senior IT types will gather in Melbourne for Mercury Interactive's annual local user conference.

Mercury is the kind of company whose core competencies -- application testing and matching IT performance to business goals -- are never likely to appear on Today Tonight, but are nonetheless compelling for the typical C-level executive.

The theme for this year's gathering is "optimize outcomes" which is a worthy aim, even if the spelling is wrong for an Australian conference. Attendance is up nearly 30 percent on last year, and a new venue looks likely for 2006.

One topic which probably won't get much play is the recent market rumour that HP is contemplating a US$3.5 billion takeover of Mercury to bolster its software division.

Local managing director David De Laine says no customers have yet asked him about the rumour -- like any local executive, he has no authority to comment on whether it's true.

Time will tell if this is accurate speculation or idle chatter, but as a prospective deal, it seems a bit whiffy.

HP's track record for merger management is patchy - Compaq anyone? -- so its own shareholders might be displeased at the notion.

More significantly, corporate politics would mean that an HP-owned Mercury might find itself excluded from IT shops where it is currently a welcome player.

After all, who wants their testing and measurement vendor beholden to a major OS supplier?

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