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Vote On HP/Compaq Merger Set For Tues.

3/18/2002 02:00:00 AM Eastern

After six months of often acrimonious debate, the decision on whether the proposed Hewlett-Packard/ Compaq merger will commence will be settled tomorrow during the HP shareholder's vote.

Even on the eve of the vote it is impossible to judge what will happen. The pro-merger side led by HP CEO Carly Fiorina has assured that the $22.8 billion merger will take place, while those opposed, led by the families of founders Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett, say they have enough votes to block the merger.

Compaq shareholders are set to vote on March 20, but they are expected to accept the merger.

The merger has passed the regulatory hurdles with the Federal Trade Commission giving its OK last week, a move already made by European and Canadian antitrust agencies. This news was proceeded by proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services recommending earlier this month that shareholders support the merger.

Walter Hewlett, son of co-founder Bill, has led the fight against the merger stating that it will not deliver on Fiorina's promise of better efficiencies and make HP an instant player in the enterprise level server and storage market. The Packard and Hewlett families along with their foundations control about 18 percent of the voting shares a massive block that will not be easy to overcome.

HP and Compaq have taken out a series of newspaper advertisements encouraging shareholders to accept the merger, while Hewlett and Fiorina have each toured the country to drum up support for their side of the deal.

If the shareholders vote to accept the merger both companies are set to immediately put into place a plan that would combine the various brands and product lines.

"The day the merger is consummated, we'll be able to show the new merged product lines," said Jim Milton, Compaq's VP/general manager of North America.