HP/COMPAQ: HP claims victory on early results

Hewlett-Packard claimed an early victory Tuesday in its acquisition bid for Compaq Computer, saying preliminary results indicate shareholders have approved the deal. One of the lead opponents of the deal quickly refuted HP's claim, saying the vote is still too close to call.

The difference in the preliminary vote is less than 1 percent, a spokesman for the lead opponent said Tuesday afternoon.

"Based on preliminary estimates, we believe we have received sufficient votes to approve HP's merger," said Carly Fiorina, chief executive officer and chairman at HP, during a question and answer session with the press at the special shareholder meeting here. "We of course acknowledge this is not a final vote."

"A decisive majority of shares not affiliated with HP family and foundations voted in favor," she said.

HP tallied early proxy votes prior to the Tuesday shareholder meeting, Fiorina said, adding that the company expects only a small percentage of votes to trickle in from the day's voting here.

Before HP claimed victory, lead objector to the deal Walter Hewlett, an HP board member and son of one of HP's founders, had issued a statement saying he remained optimistic about the vote. Hewlett then countered HP's claim, saying in an afternoon press conference that the difference in votes was "razor thin" and that the official outcome was unclear.

"We stand by the statement that the results are too close to call," Hewlett said. "It is simply impossible to determine the outcome at this time."

After a bitter six-month struggle against HP, Hewlett said he would be pleased to return to his life as a "musician and academic." His remarks comically referred to HP's early characterization of him, as a scholar not trained to make major strategic decisions.

Official word on the vote is still not expected for "a few weeks," HP said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. The decision will be revealed by independent vote counting firm IVS Associates Inc.

Although Hewlett may not emerge as the victor in this battle, he said his relentless campaigning was a worthwhile endeavor.

"It was definitely a cause that needed to be taken up," Hewlett said during the press conference. "Regardless of the final result, today is clearly a victory for HP shareholders and all shareholders. Together we have demonstrated that accountability to stockholders is not a platitude."

Hewlett hopes to remain on the company's board if the deal goes through, saying he can still contribute good advice to the company.

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