NEW YORK, Sept. 4 - Computer giant Hewlett-Packard plans to acquire rival Compaq in a deal valued at $21 billion that will likely create a more agile competitor to Sun Microsystems’ and IBM’s life science efforts, the companies confirmed on Tuesday.

The new company, which will retain the Hewlett-Packard name and Palo Alto, Calif., headquarters, will be home to roughly 145,000 employees and generate some $87 billion in annual revenue.

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