HP/Compaq: Bank of America joins opposition


HP/Compaq: Bank of America joins opposition

Bank of America's investments unit plans to use the shares it controls to vote against Hewlett-Packard's planned acquisition of Compaq Computer.

Bank of America Capital Management is one of HP's largest institutional shareholders. The company holds around 54 million HP shares, nearly 3% of HP's outstanding total, but directly controls only 6.4 million shares. Those 6.4 million shares are the only ones Bank of America will be voting against the deal. The remaining shares depend on the votes of the bank's individual clients.

The firm is not issuing a recommendation to its clients, and has made no formal announcement of its opposition to the deal. It is merely confirming published reports of its intention, spokesman Joe Fazzino said.

Integration challenges and the potential for dilution of HP's product portfolio through an increased reliance on the PC business were key factors in Bank of America's decision, Fazzino said. Those risks have been repeatedly emphasised by Walter Hewlett and others opposing merging the two companies.

At least one major HP institutional investor, Barclays Bank, will be supporting the acquisition. Barclays has said it would use its 60 million shares to vote in accordance with the recommendation of Institutional Shareholder Services, which last week released a report backing the deal.

Aligned against the deal are shareholders owning more than 20% of HP's outstanding shares, including several relatives of HP's co-founders, their trusts, institutional investor Brandes Investment Partners and the pension fund of the California Public Employees' Retirement System.

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