HP’s board unanimously rejected Xerox’s unsolicited takeover proposal, saying the US$22/share offer is too low and citing concerns about the smaller rival’s prospects in the printing industry.
HP is “open to exploring” a merger but there are “fundamental questions that need to be addressed,” CEO Enrique Lores and chairman Chip Bergh wrote in a letter to Xerox CEO John Visentin. They cited Xerox’s revenue decline since June 2018, “which raises significant questions for us regarding the trajectory of your business and future prospects”.
HP pressed for access to Xerox’s books as a step toward any potential combination, which would unite iconic brands and reshape the printing industry. Norwalk, Connecticut-based Xerox is one of the biggest sellers of photocopiers, while Palo Alto, California-based HP is one of the world’s largest printer makers. A representative for Xerox wasn’t immediately available for comment.
“With substantive engagement from Xerox management and access to diligence information on Xerox, we believe that we can quickly evaluate the merits of a potential transaction,” Lores and Bergh wrote. “We remain ready to engage with you to better understand your business and any value to be created from a combination,” they added.
HP officials believe they can move quickly on due diligence because the two companies have had on-and-off-again conversations over the years, and even asked for such a review toward a potential combination back in September, according to people familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified. HP officials are open to any form of transaction that would create the most value for shareholders and may consider buying Xerox, the people said.
HP’s statement included a 5 November letter from Xerox outlining the offer of $17/share in cash and 0.137 Xerox shares for each HP share, for a total transaction value of $33.5-billion. Xerox’s letter said the offer remained open until 13 November.
Since news of the talks broke on 5 November, HP’s shares have risen 9.7% to $20.18, giving it a market capitalisation of $29.9-billion. Xerox has risen about 7.1% to $38.94, for a market cap of $8.4-billion.
A combination has had the support of investor Carl Icahn, who filings last week show had raised his stake in HP to 4.2% of shares outstanding in the third quarter. Icahn, in an interview last week with the Wall Street Journal, said he sees HP as undervalued and that a combination would benefit both companies through cost savings. — Reported by Jim Silver and Scott Deveau, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP