Hoping that the third time’s a charm, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) has again extended the deadline for Mercury Interactive Corp. shareholders to approve HP’s US$4.5 billion pending purchase of Mercury.

HP Monday extended its previously announced tender offer for all of Mercury’s common stock until October 27 midnight Eastern time.

The previous tender offer expired at midnight October 13. As of then, Mercury shareholders had tendered about 81.5 million shares. An HP spokesperson couldn’t be immediately reached to determine how many Mercury shares HP requires to close the deal.

HP first announced plans to acquire Mercury in July to enhance its presence in IT management software and services, a move that would boost HP’s annual software revenue to more than $2 billion. Mercury has particular strength in applications management, while HP has traditionally focused on systems and network management via its OpenView software family. Mercury will also bring HP the Systinet registry and repository, software seen by analysts as key to any company committed to the popular SOA (service-oriented architecture) model.

While Mercury has a troubled past including the resignations of its chief executive officer, chief financial officer and general counsel late last year due to the incorrect recording of stock-option grants, HP continues to be bogged down in a boardroom scandal of its own.

HP’s troubles centre on how both company executives and third parties it hired behaved during investigations to identify the leaker of confidential information. Five people including former HP chair Patricia Dunn, who was forced to quit the company last month, face felony charges in Santa Clara County, California, Superior Court. The charges relate to pretexting or the use of false pretenses to gain access to individuals’ phone records.

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