What might get spun out in tech in 2015


A lot of tech companies spent this year reinventing themselves by announcing major splits and divestitures, and analysts predict that the trend will continue in 2015.

There was Hewlett Packard, which announced that it would separate its printing and PC businesses from the hardware and services division. Ebay said it would split Marketplace from PayPal. And IBM paid $1.5 billion to offload its chip arm.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to splits," said Dan Ives, managing director in the technology, media and telecom research group of FBR Capital Markets. "A lot of large-cap tech companies need to focus on their bread-and-butter businesses. Splits will be a key theme in 2015."

So what splits and spinoffs should investors expect?

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Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights & Strategy, said Oracle could make some big news. Oracle's profits come from software and services, he said, while hardware is a drag that could be sold. The question is which tech firm would be interested in buying that business.

"If I had to put a name out there, I'd probably say Dell, which doesn't have the highest end of hardware that runs complete systems like Oracle," Moorhead said. "It could be a way for Dell to get into that market."

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In its latest reported quarter, Oracle said revenue in its hardware division rose slightly to $1.3 billion.

Another potential spin out in 2015: Amazon Web Services. Amazon doesn't break down the performance of its cloud service, only saying in its most recent reported quarter that usage rose nearly 90 percent.

But Youssef Squali, an analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald, estimates that AWS losses are growing as Google goes after Amazon in cloud services and drives prices lower.

"That explains the lower profits management guided for in the fourth quarter," Squali said.

Moorhead calls AWS a distraction that should be spun out and sold. A potential suitor, he says, could be Hewlett Packard, which is in the process of building its own major cloud services business.

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As for the consumer space, analysts think Microsoft could spin out its Xbox unit in the new year.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is at least publicly committed to gaming, but Ives says spinning out that unit could make strategic sense in 2015.

"You could see Xbox spun off as it really becomes a nonstrategic area for Microsoft," FBR's Ives said, "specifically, as Microsoft has more success in Windows 10, cloud and mobile and away from the PC."

In its most recent reported quarter, Microsoft said total Xbox console sales were 2.4 million, growing 102 percent.

Dell, Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle did not immediately return calls for comment.

Bottom line: Analysts expect 2015 to be a big year for splits and spinoffs with tech companies trying to return value to shareholders and freeing up cash to pursue other growth opportunities.