Carly Fiorina's future as chief executive of Hewlett Packard (HP) is being hotly debated after her plan to merge the company with rival Compaq received a huge blow when HP's biggest shareholder voted against the deal.
Her ambitions for the company were crushed on Friday afternoon when The David and Lucille Packard Foundation, which owns 10.4 per cent of HP stock, announced that it is not in favour of the merger.
Despite mounting opposition, the controversial acquisition has been driven by Fiorina and experts believe that if it fails she will have no option but to resign.
The Foundation's shares, plus those of the children of HP founders David Packard and William Hewlett, who also oppose the deal, mean that 18 per cent of stockholders are now against the deal.
It is estimated that 25 per cent of the remaining stock is held by individuals and 57 per cent by mutual and pension funds. How the funds vote is key to the outcome and indications of their leanings have been negative.
One analyst believes that the time has already come for Fiorina to quit. "It's like that Kenny Rogers song; you have to know when to hold and when to fold," said Ashok Kumar, an analyst at US Bancorp Piper Jaffray.
Fiorina made no comment over the weekend on the Foundation's decision but she and her opposite number at Compaq, Michael Cappellas, have said that they would not drop the plan and would take it to shareholders for approval or rejection.
Following the Foundation's decision, HP and Compaq issued a joint statement standing by their plan. "We strongly believe that we will be able to obtain share-owner approval, despite this development," it said.
The Foundation was apparently swayed by a report from consultants Booz-Allen which came out generally against the merger. The report will no doubt be read by all other shareholders.
Many experts can't understand why HP would want to take over Compaq, with its reliance on the low-margin PC business, when there are more opportunities in less commoditised fields.
Despite Fiorina trying time and again to convince the market that the merger is not simply about the PC business, she has failed to persuade many people outside the two boardrooms.
The focus remains on PCs while Compaq's success stories such as its services business, which posted a $284m profit last quarter on sales of $1.9b, are ignored.
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