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Hewlett takes merger fight to the Web

Dissident HP board member Walter Hewlett launches a Web site to rally support for his fight against the pending HP-Compaq deal.

Walter Hewlett has launched a Web site.

The site is the latest strategic step the dissident Hewlett-Packard board member has taken in his fight against the pending HP and Compaq Computer mega-merger. See special coverage: Big iron: HP to buy Compaq

Taking Hewlett's cause to the masses, the site is designed to give shareholders and interested parties a blow-by-blow account of his efforts to stop the $24 billion merger--ranging from filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission to reports from his financial advisors. This also marks the latest step in what has become a heated and unusual battle between the son of HP co-founder William Hewlett and the company's board and management.

"The Web site was created because it's a good forum to present and consolidate information regarding Walter Hewlett's opposition to the HP-Compaq merger," a representative for Hewlett said.

With a banner stripped across the top of the page urging shareholders to "Vote No on HP Compaq," the site features stockholder information, financial analysis, press releases and statements and background about Hewlett, the William R. Hewlett Revocable Trust, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which plan to vote their approximate 5.6 percent stake against the deal.

In response to Hewlett's new effort, HP spokeswoman Rebeca Robboy said, "We are and will continue to use a variety of communications tactics, including Web sites, to take our message to share owners, both retail and institutional. Since day one, HP's SEC filings and information on the merger have been posted on HP.com."

Meanwhile, sources say HP is also planning to launch a dedicated pro-merger Web site that will be separate from its current corporate site.

HP has previously stated that it's seeking the merger to strengthen its enterprise-computing operation and expand its consulting business. HP also wants to position the company as a one-stop solution for corporate customers.

For his part, Hewlett says the deal will dilute the effects of HP's highly profitable printing and imaging business, as well as give it a larger albatross in the low-margin PC business.

Hewlett launched his anti-merger campaign in November, a month after he and the rest of the board had unanimously approved the deal. Since then, Hewlett has been making the rounds with institutional investors, issuing filings with the SEC and trading barbs with HP's management and board.

As the two camps wage war, the deal is charting its own path. European Community antitrust regulators are expected to either give their stamp of approval on Thursday or call for more time to conduct an intensive review of the deal. The companies are hoping to bring the issue to a shareholder vote as early as March.

Regulators from the Federal Trade Commission and SEC have yet to weigh in, but one source familiar with HP said the process is going faster than had been expected.