HP claims victory in Compaq merger vote

A "slim but sufficient" majority of Hewlett-Packard shareholders has approved the company's proposed $21bn (£15bn) acquisition of...

A "slim but sufficient" majority of Hewlett-Packard shareholders has approved the company's proposed $21bn (£15bn) acquisition of Compaq Computer, according to HP chairwoman and chief executive officer Carly Fiorina.

The results are preliminary and must be formally certified before legal closure of the deal, Fiorina said. Final ratification of the vote is not expected for "a few weeks", HP said. But based on early voting information, "we feel we have the approval necessary to go forward with this merger," Fiorina added.

Walter Hewlett, an HP board member, son of one of the co-founders and a key opponent of the acquisition, was not conceding after HP's announcement.

"We stand by our statement that the results of today's vote are too close to call. In a proxy contest this close, where stockholders are changing their votes right up until the closing of the polls, it is simply impossible to determine the outcome at this time. It is now in the hands of the independent inspectors of election, and we look forward to the certified results," he said.

Fiorina's claims came barely an hour after a special shareholders meeting to vote on the merger concluded. She said that with the preliminary approval, HP would push forward the integration of the two companies.

A team of more than 900 people have been working on the integration for six-and-a-half months and are fully prepared to put those plans into motion, Fiorina said.

Shortly after the merger is formally approved, customers can expect to get full and detailed product road maps, Fiorina said. They will also be getting complete details on their account teams under a merged company, she said.

Plans are already in place to merge Compaq's Web sites with HP's, and customer service representatives of the merged organisation will soon be briefed on how to take calls from customers of either company, Fiorina said.

Fiorina confirmed that HP would lay off 15,000 employees from both firms worldwide in the next six to nine months.

First announced in September, the deal would combine two of the largest computing companies into a services-driven vendor that proponents say would be better equipped to compete with IBM. Leading the charge was Fiorina, who was widely expected to resign if the merger were to fall through.

Compaq, meanwhile, said it was pleased with the outcome of the vote but acknowledged that the results weren't official.

"Over the past months, there has been a groundswell of support from customers, partners and shareholders who are favourable toward the merger as they examine its strategic rationale," said Michael Capellas, Compaq chairman and chief executive officer.

"We continue to believe that this merger will rapidly accelerate our strategy, improve overall earnings power and provide increased value for customers, shareholders and employees."

Compaq shareholders vote today (20 March) on whether to ratify the deal.

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