- Associated Press - Thursday, August 26, 2010

SEATTLE (AP) - Hewlett-Packard Co. said Thursday it is raising its offer for data-storage maker 3Par Inc. to about $1.69 billion, topping a revised bid that rival Dell Inc. made public earlier in the day.

HP’s new offer is for $27 per share in cash. Earlier, Dell said 3Par had accepted its second offer of $24.30 per share in cash, or $1.52 billion.

Dell made its first offer, $18 per share, for 3Par on Aug. 16. HP kicked off the bidding contest with its counteroffer Monday.

The back-and-forth bidding over previously obscure 3Par underscores how serious Dell and HP, among the world’s largest PC makers, are about finding more profitable businesses than selling computers.

The companies that made personal computers affordable and ubiquitous must now draw new buyers by selling more sophisticated PCs at ever-lower prices. The cost of parts, meanwhile, has increased, putting even more of a squeeze on profits.

HP and Dell see 3Par as a way to build up their “cloud computing” businesses, which hold the promise of richer profits because many companies aren’t buying their own computer servers for certain tasks anymore. Instead, they’re paying to have software they would have stored on those machines delivered to them over the Internet.

Dell, HP and others are riding this trend by offering those kinds of cloud-computing services directly on a subscription basis, along with the equipment and software for customers to build their own cloud systems.

One of the reasons cloud computing is attractive is that such systems are designed to be shared by multiple customers, which spreads out the cost of operating expensive equipment. Storage machines from 3Par are made for this kind of system, where computers need to ramp up or scale down quickly based on demand in order to give all the customers the same high level of service.

Dell’s agreement with 3Par gives Dell time to match competing offers such as the latest from HP.

In extended trading, share of HP, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif., slipped 18 cents to $38.04, as investors reacted to the company’s decision to pursue a deal at more than double 3Par’s share price before Dell’s initial bid. Earlier, HP’s stock dipped 2 cents to close at $38.22 Thursday.

Shares of Dell, which is based in Round Rock, Texas, dropped 4 cents to $11.71 in extended trading after falling 3 cents earlier to close at $11.75.

3Par, based in Fremont, Calif., saw its stock bounce up $1.79, nearly 7 percent, to $27.82, which is above HP’s latest offer price. Its shares ended regular trading down 73 cents, or 2.7 percent, at $26.03.