SAN FRANCISCO – Computer and printer maker Hewlett-Packard Co. on Tuesday said it has set a shareholder vote for March 19 on its controversial plan to buy Compaq Computer Corp., in what would be the computer industry's largest merger.
Compaq will hold its meeting a day later, the companies said in regulatory filings.
Dissident Hewlett-Packard board member Walter Hewlett, a son of co-founder Bill Hewlett, urged shareholders to join members of the founding families, which hold 18 percent of Hewlett-Packard stock, in opposing the $23 billion deal.
Hewlett said in a statement that he had begun mailing his own proxy materials to shareholders.
The vote dates fit the timetable that Hewlett-Packard and Compaq laid out when they announced the deal in September. They said they expected it to close in the first half of 2002.
``I don't think it should come as a surprise to anyone that we are in fact on plan,'' Compaq spokesman Arch Currid said on Tuesday.
But the outcome of the vote is unclear, one analyst said.
``I think it is too hard to call,'' said Bear Stearns analyst Andrew Neff.
Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Carly Fiorina on Monday said the company would report a profit that was far above expectations for the quarter ended in January, proving management's mettle.
Hewlett-Packard had enough support from institutional investors to win the merger vote, she asserted, drawing a harsh rebuttal from Hewlett, who also has been meeting with fund managers and sees strong support for scrapping the deal.
Walter Hewlett told stockholders in a letter with proxy materials that strong financial results showed the company was fine on its own and that HP needed to focus on its strengths.
``HP is a strong company. HP is not in crisis. Don't bet the Company on the Compaq transaction. It would be a mistake to become the world's largest commodity computing company, more than doubling HP's exposure to the troubled PC business. That would be a crisis,'' Hewlett said in the letter.
Hewlett-Packard argues that the merged company would provide one-stop shopping for many companies and that the deal would build a high-end computing and services powerhouse as well as let management cut costs to build profit.
After the announcement, Hewlett-Packard shares fell 65 cents, or 2.95 percent, to close at $21.39, while Compaq lost 20 cents, or 1.64 percent, to $12 on the New York Stock Exchange