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Analysts to hear HP merger pitch

As the clock ticks, Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will again stump for her company's proposed merger with Compaq when she faces financial analysts Wednesday.

As the clock ticks down, Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will make another pitch for her company's proposed merger with Compaq Computer when she faces financial analysts Wednesday in New York.

The meeting comes at a pivotal time for HP and Compaq's proposed $21 billion marriage. The deal is up for a shareholder vote March 19, and several major shareholders are expected to vote against the deal.

Brandes Investment Partners, a money-management firm that owns about 1.3 percent of HP shares, on Tuesday said it would vote against the merger. Managing partner Charles Brandes confirmed that his firm backs dissident HP board member Walter Hewlett, the son of an HP co-founder, whose strategy concentrates on HP's printing and enterprise computing businesses.

Meanwhile, the mudslinging is fast and furious between the HP side and Hewlett. Hewlett urged shareholders in an ad Tuesday not to trade in HP's printing business for Compaq's PC business. Meanwhile, Compaq on Tuesday ran its own ad touting its leadership in servers, storage, services and other areas.

On Monday, HP said that Hewlett had flip-flopped several times on the merger. HP has been engaged in a bitter proxy battle with members of the Hewlett and Packard families who oppose the deal and who, individually and through foundations, are the largest stakeholders in the company.

HP recently reported a banner first quarter, topping analysts' estimates. For any other company, Wednesday's briefing typically would focus on the year ahead. But analysts are expecting there to be few questions unrelated to the merger.

"Management will emphasize the qualities of the deal they have been highlighting all along and may even offer more details about the integration process or synergy expectations," Bank of America Securities analyst Joel Wagonfeld wrote in a research note.

Earlier this week, a survey commissioned by merger opponent David Woodley Packard, son of HP co-founder David Packard, found that HP workers in Idaho opposed the merger by more than a 2-to-1 margin. A similar poll taken among HP workers in Oregon produced essentially the same results.

Reuters contributed to this report.