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Hewlett-Packard appoints new chairman

Hewlett-Packard, the US computer giant, stepped up its rivalry with software company Oracle last night, by appointing a long-time Oracle executive as its new chairman.

And HP also tapped a software executive – Leo Apotheker, former boss of Germany's SAP – to be its new chief executive, in a move that disappointed investors.

The appointments were announced last night, eight weeks after the resignation of Mark Hurd as chairman and chief executive of HP in a sex and expenses scandal.

Mr Hurd has already been hired by Oracle as de facto deputy to the company's founder Larry Ellison, who said HP had made a terrible error by ousting Mr Hurd.

Ray Lane, who had been president and chief operating officer at Oracle before moving to the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, will be non-executive chairman at HP. Oracle and HP are increasingly competing for business from large corporate customers, as Oracle moves into selling hardware, such as servers, and HP beefs up its offering of software and services alongside its traditional business of selling computers.

HP shares fell 3 per cent in after-hours trading after news that Mr Apotheker will join the company. He spent more than two decades at SAP, and had been chief executive since 2008, before resigning abruptly earlier this year.

Fort Pitt Capital analyst Kim Caughey expressed doubt about the wisdom of the appointment. "SAP is a very different sort of company than HP, and that is my biggest concern. The scope of SAP is very different, as are the customers. What does he know about hardware? That's the question."

Mr Hurd resigned in August after an internal investigation into accusations of sexual harassment from a female contractor. He settled that claim privately, and HP found no evidence it had breached its sexual harassment policies, but did discover inaccurate expenses claims that had hidden the relationship.